KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Mississippi guard Marshall Henderson had reporters and television cameras 5-6 deep surrounding his locker in the Sprint Center on Thursday, and the attention seemed to be wearing thin on Henderson, who has been one of the breakout stars of the college basketball postseason thanks to his colorful personality — he called the SEC coaches “losers” for not voting him All-SEC — and his ability to light it up from three-point range.
It seems, though, as if Henderson may be starting to grow tired of the attention.
Whenever questions about his personality or “swag” came up on Thursday, Henderson was curt, if not annoyed.
For example, when asked if he thought his antics were a distraction for his teammates, Henderson answered, “I can’t think about stuff like that.”
Henderson, a 6-foot-2 junior guard, leads the Rebels with 20.1 points per game. He played one season for Utah, sat out a season at Texas Tech and then won an NJCAA Division I championship last season for South Plains (Texas) Junior College.
His teammates, to their credit, quickly come to Henderson’s defense when asked about the attention he gets.
“It affects us in a positive way,” senior guard Nick Williams said. “Once he hits that one big three, we feel a jolt of energy. It’s great for us, man. He’s a great guy and he brings a lot of things to the table. We’re happy to have him.”
Coming home — Mississippi athletic director Ross Bjork couldn’t help but smile for a couple reasons on Selection Sunday when he saw the Rebels were headed to Kansas City. First, because the Rebels were in the NCAA Tournament at all.
“We needed a couple of wins to get in and now we’re one of the hottest teams,” Bjork said. “It’s special for the program.”
Second, because he was getting to come home. Bjork is a Dodge City native and Emporia State alumnus who was the youngest athletic director out of the 120 football bowl subdivision schools when he was hired at Western Kentucky in 2010 and he was the youngest athletic director among BCS schools when he was hired by Ole Miss last March at 40 years old.
“Growing in up in Kansas, being a Kansas City Royals fan and going to Emporia State, coming to Kansas City is special,” Bjork said. “When I worked at Mizzou for 6 1/2 years, Kansas City was like our second home … so to come here and get to see friends and to see family is great. When I was at UCLA, we played here in the NCAA Tournament. This place has special meaning for me.”
No way, no how — Kansas State freshman forward D.J. Johnson has long, flowing dreadlocks that look almost identical to the ones Wichita State senior forward Carl Hall now-famously cut off before the Shockers’ second-round win over Pittsburgh on Thursday in Salt Lake City.
When Johnson was shown a picture of Hall post haircut, he smiled and shook his head in disbelief.
Johnson hasn’t cut his hair since 2009, during his sophomore year at Parkway North High in St. Louis.
"Not me, man … no way. Never happen," Johnson said. “Maybe (Hall) thought it was good luck or something … but nah, I’m not ever going to cut my hair.”
Messing up Obama’s bracket — Angel Rodriguez chuckled when asked for his thoughts on President Obama picking K-State to lose before the Sweet 16 in his bracket. But when his laughter died down, he got serious.
"I feel bad for him,” Rodriguez said. “He’s going to mess up his bracket right away. I respect what he has to say. Whoever he picks to win, I respect it. But he already messed up the bracket."
Out of towners — Will Spradling is used to playing in front of his family. The Overland Park native’s parents attend nearly every home game and drivable road game. But they will not be in attendance when K-State plays La Salle.
Spradling said they are with his sister in Cancun, Mexico, for spring break.
“They were talking about coming back,” Spradling said. “But they’re not going to make it … They should be here if we play on Sunday.”
Time for Tyrone — La Salle guard Tyrone Garland had the world of social media buzzing on Wednesday night with his game — he hit 9 of 11 shots for 22 points in a win over Boise State — and for his hair. The win in the First Four advanced the Explorers to play Kansas State on Friday afternoon.
“I actually played against Kansas State my freshman year at Virginia Tech,” said Garland, who transferred to La Salle in Dec. 2011. “I just know they’re a very tough team, and they are going to try and bully you on offense and defense.”
And as far as his hair, a braided, flattened out version of cornrows that Garland wears over his ears?
“He’s the Chief Keef of college basketball!” said La Salle’s Ramon Galloway, referring to a famous rapper with the same hairstyle. “He’s had his hair like that since he was like, two years old.”
A little defensive — Wisconsin’s players were up to the challenge of defending their slow-paced style of play headed into Friday’s second-round game against Ole Miss.
“Everybody is super concerned with how we play, saying we might be the slowest team in the country, this, that and the other,” Wisconsin’s Mike Bruesewitz said. “We’re not worried about that. We come down, we get good shots.”
And yes, they get tired of people talking about how they play — a game plan focused on winning in the half-court offense.
“A stat that you guys can get from last year’s national championship team, which was Kentucky with all the athletes and great players they had was that they only averaged four more possessions per game than we did,” Bruesewitz said. “You can say what you want about us being slow, but we’re not the only team that looks to score in the half-court.”