Getting to Know The 2009 USA Nike Hoop Summit Team: John Henson
March 20, 2009 - Colorado Springs, Colo.
At 6-9, 2009 Nike Hoop Summit team member John Henson (Sickles H.S. / Tampa, Fla.) is one of the best high school forwards in the country. The future Tar Heel scores from the paint and rebounds as if he has been doing it since junior high. The catch is that he hasn't. In an 18-month span that covered his sophomore and junior seasons, Henson added about six inches to his guard-sized frame and new possibilities to his game. Surely Henson would have been talented at 6-3, but at 6-9, he is a matchup nightmare. Henson can lead the break or trail it, sink a 3-pointer or slam an offensive rebound; skills the USA will certainly take advantage of when it faces the World Select Team on April 11. The lanky big-man with guard skills talked with USABasketball.com about the Nike Hoop Summit, his weight routine and the bittersweet end to his high school career.
What does it feel like to be selected to this team?
It feels good to be representing the USA on any scale, whether it's a high school age team or the Olympic team. To represent the USA in an athletic event and play for your country, that will be a great, great feeling.
Who are you most looking forward to playing with?
I have played with pretty much everybody on the summer circuit, and I guess I'm just looking forward to playing with everyone together on one team. I have played against them, but playing together is a whole different thing. We should be able to take it to a much higher level when we all come together.
Did you watch the Nike Hoop Summit last year?
Yes, I watched the Nike Hoop Summit last year. It's a very competitive game. You've got the international players, and they represent the best foreign players in the world. It's our country against the world. We've been faring pretty well lately, and I want to keep that streak going.
From The Sideline
'John is just able to do so many things to fill up the stat sheet. It's pretty incredible. He is a tremendous defensive player. He has great skills for a big man. He also possesses a lot of skills that guards have, in terms of being able to put the ball on the floor, and he has a really nice shooting touch.
'John transferred into our school for his senior year, so I didn't coach him before then, but I have read stories and talked to him about the growth spurt he had in between his 10th grade and 11th grade year. He grew like six inches in 16 months, or something like that. He went from being a perimeter player to also being an inside player and you can attribute a lot of his versatility to his growth spurt.
'He was a great leader for us. When John transferred into our school a week before school started, I really think it challenged him. He was trying to fit in, but he didn't want to rock the boat too much. We had a lot of talent before John arrived, and we had been very successful. I thought he did a great job of coming in and wanting just to be one of the guys. That can be hard when you are ranked No. 3 in America, and you come in with all the attention and the media making a lot of noise about you. I thought he handled that well. He waited until he really felt comfortable with the team before he started to take a leadership role.
'I see him doing extremely well at the next level. First of all, he's totally coachable. He enjoys learning about the game, and he enjoys people critiquing him and telling him how he can get better. And he doesn't take it personal. I think anytime you have a kid who is extremely talented and who can absorb constructive criticism that just makes the sky the limit.'
- Renaldo Garcia, head coach
Have you ever played international basketball before?
I played in the Nike Global Challenge, and we played against Puerto Rico and Serbia. It's a different style of play that international teams have. They play a little more rough. We all play in high school and AAU, and they play against people much older than them on professional teams. They know how to play.
It's a fun style. The lane is a little bigger, and you can get to the ball while it's still on the rim. I think the rule that you can enter the lane when the shooter releases a free throw, that's probably my favorite because you don't have to wait. You can just go get it. I've tried knocking the ball off the rim, and it's harder than it sounds. If you are up there, you might remember, but you can't really plan it out.
Are you looking forward to playing in the Rose Garden?
I've never played in an NBA arena, and this will be my first time. It's going to be fun. I think the team is going to try to go to a Portland Trail Blazers game, too. I haven't been to an NBA game since I don't even know when, probably seventh or eighth grade. So, that will be a great experience for me, too.
How would you describe you game?
My game is versatile. I can do a lot of things on the court. Whether it's defensively, blocking shots and rebounding, or offensively, shooting, getting to the rim or offensive rebounding, I try to do everything on the court. Whatever my team needs for a win.
What are you most focused on improving right now?
Probably just getting stronger and bigger. That's one thing I need to work on very hard before I go to the next level. I've been lifting weights for the past few years, and it has helped me out a lot, just with the little bit I was doing. So, right now, I'm getting on it really hard. I'm on a little six week plan, so we will see what happens after six weeks. I am currently on week four, and I'm still on track.
What is your least favorite workout or drill?
I'm going to have to say running suicides. I hate doing that. It's something that gets you in shape, but it's something that I hate doing. I don't know many basketball players that enjoy running, but it comes with the game.
What motivates you?
Just know the end goal. You always want to win the game. You want to be a better player than everyone else. Also, you are looking toward the future. If you work hard now, it's going to pay off in college, and if you work hard in college, hopefully it will pay off with a national championship or getting to the NBA. That's always in the back of your mind, and you always want to get to that goal.
How did you finish your high school season?
We lost in the regional semifinals about three weeks ago. We were 24-5, and we were one of the favorites. We kind of got upset, and that's the disappointing part. We played well this year, and we lost to a team we were supposed to beat. But things like that happen. Overall the season went well.
What is your favorite high school memory?
Probably my first varsity start. I was a sophomore, and that was a big deal for me. When I was younger I wanted to play basketball, but I didn't really have that drive that other players had. I have it now, but when I was a kid, I thought I would just be a role player. And then when I was put in the role to be a scorer and lead a team, that was one of my most memorable experiences. I had like 27 points, 10 rebounds and it was just a great experience.
Why did you decide to play at the University of North Carolina?
I took visits to other schools. After seeing other schools and seeing North Carolina, I felt North Carolina was the best fit for me. Everything was head-and-shoulders above anywhere else that I had been, with the coaching staff and the players, the town and the people. It was a no-brainer pretty much after I got home and discussed it with my parents.
Did you watch the 2008 Olympics? What was your favorite moment?
I tried to watch every game, getting up at 2 a.m. or 6 a.m., whenever they were on. I just remember the team defense and the defensive mindset. People think that U.S. players are focused only on offense, and we pretty much took apart that image this past summer. It earned those players and this country a lot of respect.