Scratching the Surface

Mavs’ Henry has developed into one of the county’s best all-around players

by Aaron Garcia

Marvin Ridge senior forward Jordan Henry is averaging 13.2 points, 12.7 rebounds, 5.6 blocks, 4.4 steals and 3.6 assists per game. (Aaron Garcia/UCW photo)

Spending long, tireless hours on the basketball court was nothing new for Jordan Henry. Since around the age of 7, when she said she first fell in love with the sport, Henry’s life has been a whirlwind of basketball practices, road trips and games, all in the name of improving her ability on the court.

“(My life) has always been centered around basketball,” she said. “I love it.”

But when her father, Joe, began taking her to the YMCA about a year and a half ago to play in the all-male pickup games, Henry said it was like playing a whole new sport.

“The first time I got in that gym, it was kind of awkward,” she said. “I felt out of place.”

By that point, Henry was already known as one of Union County’s top girls players. As a sophomore, she had earned all-Southern Carolina 3A/4A conference honors and was named to the CMC-Union Holiday Invitational All-Tournament team.

But Joe, who had spent years as her coach on the AAU circuit, thought she could stand out even more. So they headed to the YMCA.

“Girls will be a little apprehensive because of the physicality and speed of the boys game, but that’s the reason we play there,” said Joe. “I (told her), ‘Listen, if you can hold your own against these guys, you’re really going to excel in the girls game.’”

And so far, that’s been the case. This season, as a 6-foot-3 senior forward for Marvin Ridge, Henry has been one of the most solid players in the county. She’s averaging 13.2 points, 12.7 rebounds, 4.4 steals and 5.6 blocks per game for the Mavericks, who have a 10-6 record heading into their Friday, Jan. 20 conference game against first-place Porter Ridge. She’s also the all-time leading scorer and rebounder for the school, which opened in 2007.

Joe said he isn’t surprised his daughter was willing to work with the guys. After all, she’s always been the type to eye down a challenge.

“Jordan’s the kind of kid that I never even got a chance to teach to ride a bike,” said Joe. “I looked out the window one day and she’d gotten up on her bike. That’s a father’s big moment, right? And she did it on her own.

“It’s the same thing (that’s allowed her to become an accomplished basketball player),” Joe said. “She’s very competitive and aggressive.”

And it shows. On the court, Henry is the county’s most feared defensive rebounder and shot blocker, and her progression was a must for the Mavs, said coach Dwight Miller, especially considering she was the team’s lone returning starter in the post after the graduation of 6-3 forward Erica White last year.

“We told (Henry before the season), ‘Basically, your role is going to expand,’” Miller said. “’We’re going to need you to do more than what you’ve done because you don’t have the team you’ve had for the last two years. So we’re going to need you to do more for us to be able to be competitive in games.’

“She’s stepped up into that well.”

But the extra work hasn’t just paid off in Henry’s post presence. Henry said she realized she had a good jump shot a few years ago, and began to strengthen her mechanics away from the rim. But when playing with girls, Henry’s height often has made her a center by default. When playing with the guys at the YMCA, however, she’s far from the tallest player when she takes the court, which has allowed her to venture out of the blocks.

“We’ve been trying to expand my game and work on ball-handling and everything, trying to get an all-around game,” she said.

And according to Miller, the approach has worked, even if the offense at Marvin Ridge generally calls for her to reside in the post.

Earlier this year, Henry signed a National Letter of Intent to continue her career at New York’s Iona College, and perhaps no one is more pleased with her all-around development than Gaels’ coach Anthony Bozzella.

“That’s one of the reasons we really fell in love with her,” Bozzella said during a phone interview. “She’s not your typical back-to-the-basket, 6-3, high school forward. She’s got face-up skills, she’s got perimeter skills. We see so much growth potential in her in so many ways.”

Henry’s performance during a Jan. 13 loss to Anson backed up Bozzella’s assessment of his future player. In the 44-36 loss, Henry filled the stat book with 15 points, 15 rebounds, eight steals, seven blocks and five assists. She also hit two of her three attempts from beyond the 3-point arc.

“I am very confident with my shot,” she said. “In school, the way the offense is set up, it’s very difficult to get my shots out, but I’ve been working on my 3s for a while, and I’m very confident with that.”

Which pushes her ceiling even higher. But for now, Miller said he needs Henry to play the role of inside force for the Mavs, especially if the team wants to make a postseason push. In fact, he said he wants Henry to play “more selfishly” down the stretch because of her abilities.

Translation? Fewer assists, more points.

But Miller said performances such as the one against Anson give a clear indication of what Henry’s future could hold.

“I don’t think she’s even touched the surface of what she’s really going to be able to do,” said Miller. “I think the best is really going to materialize once she gets to college.”

Bozzella agreed.

“I don’t think she’s going to be a good player; I think she’s going to be a special player in college,” he said. “I really do.”

Now, after roughly 18 months of playing basketball with the boys, Henry said she feels as if she’s earned her place on the YMCA court.

“I think it’s helped me all-around become a better player by playing with the guys,” she said. “They’ll push me to different limits. They encourage me, too. It’s very physical as well.”

And she’s not the only one who has adjusted to her presence on the court.

“At the beginning, (the guys) were kind of hesitant, but then they saw I could actually play,” Henry said. “Now they respect me enough that they actually guard me.”

THE JORDAN HENRY FILE

Age: 17

Height: 6 foot 3

When did you start playing: “I used to dance until I was 6, and my dad introduced me to a basketball, and I started playing and I just loved it.”

Favorite food: Veal parmesan

Favorite basketball player: Boston Celtics guard Rajon Rondo

Favorite non-basketball person: Her dad, Joe

Favorite musician: Anything R&B

Pre-game ritual: “I listen to my playlist on my iPod.”

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