NCAA

Henderson imperfect poster boy for upstart Rebels

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Henderson imperfect poster boy for upstart Rebels

OXFORD, Miss. (AP) The talkative and brash Marshall Henderson is the face of Mississippi's basketball program.

Sometimes that's good, sometimes it's not so good.

His play and antics have led to plenty of attention for the No. 16 Rebels (17-3, 6-1 Southeastern Conference), who face No. 8 Florida (17-2, 7-0) in Gainesville on Saturday in a matchup of the SEC's two top-ranked teams.

Henderson has been so good during his first two months in the SEC that the 6-foot-2 junior has brought a rare spotlight to a program that hasn't been to the NCAA tournament since 2002. He leads the conference in scoring at 19.3 points per game; he's averaging more than 21 in SEC contests.

Being the SEC scoring leader also brings individual attention.

The scrutiny into Henderson has revealed a player with a dynamic personality and a flair for the dramatic that opposing fans love to hate. In the first 20 games of his Ole Miss career, the fast-talking, emotional Henderson has hit a 35-foot buzzer beater against Vanderbilt to tie a game, celebrated in front of an angry Auburn student section after making two game-clinching free throws and scored a combined 60 points against Tennessee over a two-game period.

Coach Andy Kennedy has had several conversations with Henderson about channeling his emotions, but has stressed he views the exuberance as a good thing.

Opposing coaches - including Tennessee's Cuonzo Martin and Kentucky's John Calipari - have said they enjoy watching Henderson play.

``I think it's passion,'' Kennedy said of Henderson's reactions. ``We don't want it to be misconstrued. Everything that he does is sincere. It is team first. We just want to make sure he funnels it in the proper way. He's a guy that's certainly going to garner attention.''

But all the attention has also revealed details about Henderson's checkered past, which includes a stint in jail last year because of a probation violation.

- According to court documents, Henderson was arrested for a 2009 incident in Tarrant County, Texas, and charged with misdemeanor forgery after buying marijuana with counterfeit money. He was eventually sentenced to two years of probation.

- Henderson was arrested for misdemeanor possession of marijuana in 2011 in Texas and sentenced to four months in jail during early 2012 for violating his probation - though not all of that time was actually served behind bars because he was on a work release program. Court documents also show that Henderson failed tests for alcohol, marijuana and cocaine while on probation.

Ole Miss officials have said the athletic department was aware of Henderson's past legal issues when he signed, and that there have been no problems since he arrived on campus.

Kennedy said Henderson's past might be news for opposing fans, but he doesn't expect the publicity to rattle his star guard.

``We've talked about it,'' Kennedy said Thursday. ``Marshall's a free spirit and a different thinker. I don't know exactly what would upset him one way or the other. These are things that he's dealt with. This is his reality. All of these things were two, three, some of them four years ago. I don't think people talking about them will offend him or get him off focus. I'm going to certainly try to make sure that's the case.''

Henderson was not made available for interviews on Thursday.

It remains to be seen if all the attention will change Henderson's torrid scoring pace as Ole Miss enters its most crucial stretch of the season. He scored 21 points on Tuesday in the Rebels' first SEC loss to Kentucky, but shot just 5 of 19 from the field, including only 2 of 11 from 3-point range.

The loss was costly for the Rebels. One of their most important reserves Aaron Jones - a 6-foot-9 sophomore who is the primary backup for both Murphy Holloway and Reginald Buckner - tore the ACL in his left knee in the second half and is out for the season. Backup guard Nick Williams, who is averaging more than nine points per game, is also out indefinitely after re-aggravating a foot injury against the Wildcats.

So the onus is on Henderson to keep producing for the shorthanded Rebels.

That won't be easy against Florida, which is on a nine-game winning streak. The Gators have crushed everyone in the SEC so far - the closest game was a 64-47 victory over Georgia.

Florida coach Billy Donovan is wary of Henderson, who is attempting nearly 11 3-pointers per game.

``He's got really, really good speed to come off screens,'' Donovan said. ``He's got the ability to kind of get himself squared up pretty quickly. He can make tough shots. He can make challenged shots.''

As for Henderson's on-court antics, Florida forward Will Yeguete wasn't particularly concerned.

``I think players are just different,'' Yeguete said. ``We play with a lot of energy and a lot of emotion in the game and sometimes you do things that you don't realize you do until after. I don't think there's anything wrong with that.''

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AP Sports Writer Mark Long in Gainesville, Fla., and Associated Press writer Danny Robbins in Dallas contributed to this story.

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Follow David Brandt on Twitter: www.twitter.com/davidbrandtAP

Could Maryland safety Darnell Savage Jr. jump into 2019 NFL Draft's first round?

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USA TODAY Sports

Could Maryland safety Darnell Savage Jr. jump into 2019 NFL Draft's first round?

Coming out of the NFL combine, former Maryland safety Darnell Savage Jr. was projected to be a second-round pick in the NFL Draft. But could he end up sliding into the first round on Thursday?

It seems like a possibility now, based on some of the teams he's met with, NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported Monday. And NFL.com analyst Daniel Jeremiah has previously said Savage could rise to the first round too.

NBC Sports Washington's latest NFL Mock Draft has Savage going to the Green Bay Packers as the 44th overall pick.

According to Rapoport, Savage met with 11 teams, including the Carolina Panthers (No. 16 overall pick), Pittsburgh Steelers (No. 20 overall pick), Seattle Seahawks (No. 21 overall pick), Philadelphia Eagles (No. 25 overall pick) and Los Angeles Rams (No. 31 overall pick). 

The three-year starter out of College Park was named Second Team All-Big Ten this season after recording 52 tackles (38 solo, 14 assist) for the Terps, along with four interceptions, including one pick six. He's versatile, strong and fast, and even if he gets passed by in the first round of the NFL Draft, it seems unlikely that he'll still be available by the end of the second.

At 5-foot-11 and 198 pounds, Savage ran a 4.36-second 40-yard dash at the NFL combine in February -- a time that was second-fastest among all safeties -- and posted a 39.5-inch vertical, third among safeties, and a 126-inch broad jump. He also had 11 bench-press reps.

Pro Football Focus has Savage listed as the second-best safety in this year's draft class behind Delaware's Nasir Adderley because he's "a missile around the line of scrimmage".

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Redskins Talk crew hosts NFL Draft live stream: How to watch and listen

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Each week day, starting on Wednesday, April 24th and running through Monday, April 29th, you can join the gang on the MyTeams by NBC Sports App from 1 to 2 p.m. as they analyze the intricacies of every draft decision that's made and explain how those decisions will impact the Burgundy and Gold. The Redskins Talk crew will also host special coverage of Round 1 on Thursday, April 25th, beginning at 8 p.m., offering an in-depth anlysis up to and through the 'Skins' pick. 

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When: 1 p.m. - 2 p.m. ET, Wednesdday, Thursday, Friday & Monday, with special coverage of the Redkins pick starting at 8 p.m. on Thursday

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