Marshall Henderson and Ole Miss don’t want to make friends.

Al Dannity | Updated Jan 30, 2013


He may be the last great villain in team sports but there’s no doubting Marshall Henderson’s talent. Al Dannity examines Henderson’s quest to lead Ole Miss back on the winning path.

It was just a couple of free throws. Nothing to get worked up over. Then Marshall Henderson did what he does best. He made opposing fans angry. Think about that for a second. All he needed to do to send the Auburn fans into a state of fury was to pop his jersey. That’s it. The bar for villains in team sports has been set pretty low but Henderson may single-handedly raise it this season.

Clay Travis wrote an excellent piece about the absence of villains in team sports today. The biggest two villains in sports today? LeBron and A-Rod, both of whom wish to be loved. No, a real villain needs to revel in the hatred and have the chops to put the haters down. It’s worked pretty well for Floyd Mayweather. Brock Lesnar enjoyed a similar position as well, helped largely by his transition from WWE, but he eventually became the type of respectful athlete that doesn’t overplay the heel role. Even then, these are athletes in individual sports where they have freedom to express themselves. In team sports it’s tougher to take on the role of the man people love to hate. You need to be elite to even think about it. Fortunately, for both the player and Ole Miss, Henderson fits the bill perfectly.

Tuesday night’s loss to the Wildcats took the wind out of the Rebels’ sails. Despite going 9 of 12 from the charity stripe, Henderson had a 5 of 19 shooting performance. His 21 points were nowhere near enough to claw back Kentucky, particularly with Nerlens Noel setting a school record with 12 blocks. How Mississippi rebounds from this loss, their first in conference play, will depend an awful lot on how Henderson responds to adversity.

A sports villain can’t let defeat get him down. Instead he must take the pain of loss and use it to fuel his drive for vengeance. Road trips to Florida and Missouri, the two toughest tests remaining on the Rebels’ schedule, sandwich the rivalry game with Mississippi State. Win these three and the Rebels move from hot SEC school to legitimate contender in March. There could yet be another shot at Kentucky in the offing, at the SEC tournament, but now is not the time to sit and stew. Marshall Henderson needs to come out firing, no matter what the fans thing.