Yahoo - Two years after his prolific shooting and trash-talking, jersey-popping, renegade attitude made him one of college basketball’s most electrifying – and polarizing – players, Marshall Henderson now leads a much more humble professional existence.
In Baghdad, Iraq, of all places.
Henderson plays in the Iraqi Super League. The former Ole Miss star hears gunshots from time to time in the city. He doesn’t leave his Baghdad hotel too often, where working electricity can be a daily challenge. And there are rarely female spectators in the stands at his games. Henderson is about as far away from his NBA dream as possible, and yet he finds himself in a much better place personally while playing in Iraq.
“It’s not as bad as people make it seem back home,” Henderson told Yahoo Sports in a Skype audio interview last week. “We just chill in the hotel. We don’t go anywhere. We could go places and it would be safe. We wouldn’t be worried about getting captured or anything. It’s definitely better than I would’ve expected.”
Two seasons ago, before arriving in the Middle East, Henderson became one of the most colorful characters in college basketball at the University of Mississippi.
“He was one of the most clutch players I ever played against,” said former Tennessee forward Jarnell Stokes who is now with the Memphis Grizzlies. “He had a fan base everywhere he went.”
In mid-February, Henderson signed to play for Nift Al-Janoub in Baghdad. He initially was nervous, but making a salary upward of $10,000 per month – according to Buck – with full room and board helped convince him to take it.
“The owners of these clubs are like buddy-buddy with each other,” Henderson said. “It’s kind of like a big competition on whose team wins. If you’re an American and you’re getting buckets, they will keep you happy if you’re doing well for the team and you win.”
The terrorism concerns in the Middle East aren’t lost on Henderson. Players from the Al Shurtah Police team were in a hotel in Baghdad that was attacked. Luckily, none of the players were harmed.
“I was talking to the Americans [on Al Shurtah] and they had to switch hotels because a car bomb went off and blew up half of their hotel,” Henderson said. “They showed me pictures. It was crazy that they were telling me the story so calm. That would have freaked me out a little bit. The picture the guy showed me, the room right across from his room was destroyed.”
The Iraqi Super League season will soon be over, but Henderson could find another job on a different team in the Middle East. He said he’s stayed away from drugs and alcohol since going overseas – “I’ve been really good about not testing those waters.”
Been a while since we heard from my boy Marshall. Last time kind of sucked, when he went on a Twitter spree bashing gay people then said it was all just for his friend’s sociology experiment (you know he still stands by that story adamantly? He talks about it in this article. One year later and still going strong with that one, kind of makes me believe him a little bit?).
But before that, we had a great run. Nonstop blog material. 30 point nights, lights out shooting, incredible taunts and facial expressions and press conference soundbites, a lot of drugs mixed in between. A true college cult hero. And then, he was gone, poof, like a glorious shooting star. Felt an emptiness inside ever since, a massive void if you will. Nobody has really stepped up to claim his spot as a lightning rod of entertainment on the hardwood. Just good to hear that he’s doing well/still alive and making his push to reach his NBA dreams while holed up in a terrorist-threatened hotel room in the Middle East. The sports world needs Marshall back.
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