Thursday, January 19, 2012
UNC's Henson spreads his wings
Last year's ACC defensive player of the year and the league's leader in blocks, UNC's John Henson went to work on his offense in the offseason and it shows.
North Carolina's John Henson (left) and Tyler Zeller (44) rebound against Miami's Reggie Johnson last week. Henson and Zeller are on the midseason Wooden Award watch list.
Photos by Associated Press
JOHN HENSON | UNC power forward | Junior This season: Seventh in ACC in scoring (14.4 ppg); leads ACC in rebounds (9.7 rpg) and blocks (3 bpg); second in ACC in field-goal percentage (54.6 percent). Last season: ACC defensive player of the year; All-ACC second-team; averaged 11.7 points; led ACC in blocks (3.2 bpg); ranked second in ACC in rebounds (10.1 rpg).
Virginia Tech Hokies basketball
It's a safe bet that "Inspector Gadget" is going to give Virginia Tech plenty of trouble in plenty of ways tonight.
North Carolina power forward John Henson has developed into an offensive threat, ranking seventh in the ACC in scoring (14.4 ppg).
He also dominates on the glass, leading the ACC with an average of 9.7 rebounds per game.
The 6-foot-11, 220-pound Henson, last season's ACC defensive player of the year, is also a troubling presence to would-be scorers. The junior leads the ACC with an average of three blocks per game.
"He's 'Inspector Gadget,'" said Virginia Tech coach Seth Greenberg, referring to the long-armed cartoon character. "The guy's got ridiculous length.
"He's kind of freakish in that he shoots as many shots with his left hand as his right. ... He has the ability to shoot the ball with range. ... And he affects the game defensively because he protects the front of the rim.
"He runs the court really hard. ... When he runs it, you can throw it anywhere in the basket area and he's going to come up with the ball."
The eighth-ranked Tar Heels (15-3, 2-1), who will visit Tech at 9 p.m., are hoping to bounce back from a 90-57 loss at Florida State last weekend.
"Practice has been intense and tough, and rightfully so - we didn't play too well," Henson said. "We're going to play hard and come out with a vengeance and hopefully get back on the right track."
Henson did not shine at FSU. He had 10 points and three blocks but grabbed just three rebounds. He was 0-of-7 from the free-throw line.
"I've been working on my free throws," Henson said. "I think it was more mental than anything in that game."
Henson was rated the No. 2 power forward in the nation in the Lindy's Sports college basketball preview magazine last fall. Last week, he made The Sporting News' midseason All-America team.
Henson blocked nine shots in the team's season-opening win over Michigan State. He said his timing and length help him block shots.
"It's a great weapon, being able to intimidate and enforce," he said. "If I can get a guy to adjust his shot, that's a plus for me and my team."
Henson made the All-ACC second team last season, when he averaged 11.7 points, 10.1 rebounds and 3.2 blocks.
His jumping ability helps him snare rebounds, but he also credits his drive.
"Mentally, you've got to go out there when you see the ball coming off the rim and say, 'That's my ball,'" he said.
Henson is right-handed but is comfortable shooting left-handed as well.
"I love my left hand," he said. "I came in shooting my left-hand jump hook - that was kind of my go-to move. Now that I've expanded it, it's a little easier to get that shot off now."
He ranks second in the ACC in field-goal percentage (54.6 percent), but that's not only because of his dunks and post moves. He also has developed a jumper.
"You always want to improve something every year, and I felt like offensively is where I had to improve this year," Henson said. "The little jump shot I've been working on, it's not necessarily automatic, but it'll keep the defender honest."
Henson spent last summer working on that jump shot.
"He showed himself this summer what you can do if you just be persistent and consistent at working hard on something every single day," said his father, Matt Henson.
Henson's sister, Amber, is a freshman on the Duke women's basketball team. She underwent season-ending knee surgery two weeks ago.
Matt Henson was a center for Norfolk State in the 1980s.
"He always talks about how high he used to jump," Henson said.
Henson was an All-American as a high school senior in Tampa, Fla., but it took him some time to become an all-around threat for the Tar Heels.
He averaged 5.7 points and 4.4 rebounds as a freshman, when he started 12 games. He moved from small forward to power forward during that season.
"That [small-forward role] was a fun little experiment, but down low is where I belong," Henson said.
Virginia Tech lacks a true power forward this season, so Henson could take advantage and have a big game tonight.
He certainly made an impact in UNC's 64-61 win over the Hokies last season, scoring 17 points and shooting 8-of-10 from the field.
Henson is one of 25 players on the midseason list for the Wooden Award, which goes to the national player of the year. Teammates Harrison Barnes and Tyler Zeller also made that list.
Henson, Barnes and Zeller all considered turning pro after last season before deciding the NBA could wait.
"I felt like we'd be great as a team, and coming back was the best thing for me," Henson said.
"I wasn't ready to go."