Dec. 24, 2003
After Mike Henderson led his team to a state championship and a 26-1 overall record his senior year at Waterloo East High School, Iowa Assistant Coach Greg Lansing knew he had snagged one special recruit.
But after the freshman guard posted seven points in the first two regular season games this season as a substitute, Coach Steve Alford had a special nickname for Henderson: “Waterloo Wiz Kid.”
Through the first seven games of the 2003-2004 season, Henderson had 20 points, 14 rebounds, 11 assists and four steals. It’s hardly a bad line for just 75 minutes of work over six games.
Henderson, an art major with architectural ambitions, expected a good first year, though, having come from a very competitive Class 4A prep environment in Waterloo.
“I’m working on my vocal skills. I have become a lot more vocal. It’s just a matter of feeling more comfortable with the guys.”
Iowa Freshman Mike Henderson
“(Coach Alford) and I talked about how I could see a lot of minutes before I got to Iowa,” Henderson said. “Being the back-up point guard means having to be very aggressive on the court.
“Right away, a lot of freshmen are probably shocked at the speed (of the collegiate game). It would be up and down and back again, so it was a big help to me playing at a bigger high school. Having an up-tempo game is pretty much right up my alley,” added Henderson.
Being a back-up for sophomore Jeff Horner, who Henderson actually played with on the AAU circuit, can be a tough gig. Horner’s undeniably the workhorse of the Hawkeye squad, averaging 36 minutes on the court this season and having started every game of his career.
Henderson doesn’t feel any pressure to perform at Horner’s level just yet. But one can’t help thinking he has some pretty big shoes to fill on the rotation, even if the actual sizes only differ by a half inch.
“Not really,” says Henderson, “everybody is his own player. I just come out to help the team.”
Henderson has noticed the intense, physical nature of the Division I game.
“I’m having problems fighting through screens and learning cuts,” said Henderson. “We have said Henderson. “I remember coming to games when I was little, and being teammates with Jeff and Greg Brunner in AAU ball. It seemed I was always pretty close with the Iowa family.
more motion and bigger bodies and harder screens than in high school. In games and practices, it wears your body down being hit so much.”
At the end of his high school days, Henderson had been rotating at forward and guard and averaged 18 points, four rebounds and six assists, shooting 55 percent from the field and 80 percent from the line.
Now strictly as a guard, Henderson has to adapt to the leadership position on one of the most experienced Hawkeye teams in years.
“It’s coming along,” he said. “I’m working on my vocal skills. I have become a lot more vocal. It’s just a matter of feeling more comfortable with the guys.
“In the huddles, the seniors say what they have to say, and then the point guard gets to talking.”
Henderson added that “unselfish” team dynamics have definitely helped in the adjustment.
“It’s definitely unselfish,” Henderson said. “Everybody is always looking to help each other out. It’s one of those things where one of us will get the ball and score, and it motivates the whole team.”
And leadership positions suit Henderson. He was the Trojan team captain his junior and senior years and was the team’s MVP as a senior. Henderson was a four-time all-conference and all-district selection, as East recorded 87 wins to just 14 losses in his career.
“The best accomplishment was winning state,” said Henderson, who helped bring East two appearances in the title game. “I don’t care about individual awards. I like winning tournaments and championships.”
Obviously, Henderson hopes to help bring success similar to his prep experience to Iowa.
“Here at Iowa, you face good competition everywhere, and you learn what it takes to be successful against a lot of good teams.
“Right now, I’m just trying to be solid on offense and contribute on defense.” So far, Henderson has been getting help, along the way, from Horner and sophomore guard Pierre Pierce.
“They’ve told me about the maturing process between high school and college,” Henderson said. “They’ve also told me about the things you can do in the high school game that you can’t do in college.”
The camaraderie is to be expected.
“I feel close with everyone in the program, and I’m getting along with the team real well,” “It was the best fit for me.”