Kristin Murphy, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — Marshall Henderson arrived in Utah last fall with a reputation as a guy who knew how to shoot the basketball and wasn't afraid to fire up shots from almost anywhere on the floor.
Henderson has done that, jacking up shots from everywhere and making more and more as the season has progressed.
The 6-foot-2 guard from Texas has been a bright spot, if not the bright spot, for a Utah basketball team that has struggled around the .500 mark all season. It's not far-fetched to say Henderson has been the Utes' most important player this year. When Henderson is hot, the Utes win. When he's not, they usually don't.
From Day 1, Henderson entrenched himself in the starting lineup for Utah and so far he's been everything coach Jim Boylen expected and more.
"His ability to handle success has been impressive as well as his ability to adapt to the college game and his willingness to be coached," said Boylen. "He's got a fiery attitude and plays with a chip, which I like."
Henderson also came with the reputation as a feisty kid who played with passion and wouldn't back down from anyone. He's proved that, too, getting a technical foul in his very first game as a Ute and another in January when he hit BYU's Jackson Emery and received a one-game suspension.
With the return match with BYU coming up Wednesday night at the Huntsman Center, Henderson has been reminded of the time his passion got a little out of control during the final minute of the Cougars' 82-69 win.
Henderson said he learned a big lesson from it, particularly how he hurt the team by not being available for the next game against Colorado State, which the Utes lost at home. Boylen said he was impressed by how Henderson put the incident behind him and came out with perhaps his best game the following week, scoring a season-high 24 points in a win at TCU in front of friends and family.
As a true freshman, Henderson has already set freshman records at Utah and the Mountain West Conference for most 3-point attempts (183) and 3-point makes (63). By the end of the year, he'll be in the top 10 in both categories in the Ute season record book. If he keeps up the same pace, he'll easily top Nick Jacobson's career marks at Utah for 3-pointers.
Henderson will take shots from almost anywhere on the floor and isn't shy about his willingness to do so. Ask him if he's ever met a shot he didn't like, and he plays right along.
"Never — never in my life," he says with a mischievous smile. "No shot is a bad shot to me, but coach Boylen thinks differently. He lets me know, but I'm stubborn."
Several times this year, Henderson has lofted shots from well beyond the 3-point line, even beyond NBA range. While he's missed his share, he's sunk several long balls, including a couple of 25-footers in the big upset of UNLV in Las Vegas.
"I'll watch film and I'm out at NBA range and I don't even realize I'm out that far," he says.
Boylen hesitates to lessen Henderson's enthusiasm for shooting and says the freshman has improved his shot selection as the season has progressed. After a slow start, his percentage has climbed during the season.
"Marshall wants to make the big shot and he'll take the chance of not making one to make one," Boylen says. "I like that. But the challenge is how we temper that to mold him into a winning player."
Boylen recruited Henderson out of Hurst, Texas, where he played for his father, Willie, at L.D. Bell High School. Henderson became the all-time leader in Texas Division 5A in made 3-pointers with 429, while scoring a phenomenal 2,829 points in four years.
Playing for his father was a challenge at times, Henderson says, but it also helped speed up his development this year.
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