West Jessamine point guard Will Henderson comes into today’s 58th annual Ashland Invitational Tournament with a little bit of Tomcat in him.
Henderson’s father, Bill, and grandfather, Jerry, were Ashland Tomcat basketball heroes in their day.
Will Henderson is a point guard made in the image of his father, who starred during Paul Patterson’s incredible rein as head coach. Bill Henderson was a point guard who led with grit, savvy, determination and a will to win.
Will has that will to win, too.
Go back another generation in the Henderson family and there’s Jerry, one of the ultimate all-around Tomcats. He played four sports – basketball, football, baseball and ran track. Jerry was an All-State basketball player in 1954 when the Tomcats finished third in the state, played end in football, outfield in baseball and was one of the fastest runners on the track.
Jerry Henderson may be one of the most complete athletes in Ashland history. He was Superman in maroon and white.
So Will Henderson comes into the AIT with at least a touch of Tomcat maroon inside him.
He was here over the weekend for Christmas visiting his grandparents in Ashland. He’s back today to try and help West Jessamine win the AIT.
Bill and Will don’t miss a day of practice – not even on Christmas – so Bill called up Tomcat coach Buddy Biggs to see if they could get a little gym time at Anderson Gymnasium.
“Bill being Bill, he called Buddy and he provided keys so we could get in,” Jerry said. “That’s the kind of guy Buddy is. He knows Bill has a connection with Ashland. We practiced there on Christmas Day because we knew we wouldn’t be interfering with anybody.”
Will Henderson was able to get off some shots and get the feel of the joint, Jerry said.
“Bill works with him daily on being a point guard,” Jerry said. “He has trained him to be a point guard. They have a good time at it.”
Will Henderson, a 6-foot junior, has taken to the position. He had 12 points and 13 assists in the Colts’ last game and he averages 12.9 points per game. Will plays AAU travel ball in the summer against top-notch competition.
“He is not a natural super talent but he’s as smart a basketball player as you’ll see,” his grandfather said. “Will is playing, what I consider, the maximum of his ability. He’s tougher than nails. He sees the floor as well as anybody you’ll ever see.”
Tonight the Colts will play Russell and super-shooter Kyle Skaggs, the Red Devils’ all-time scoring king who is averaging 29 points per game, in the last of four AIT opening-round games. Will Henderson has the assignment of stopping – or at least showing – the 6-2 Skaggs.
“Will is not as experienced and he’s smaller,” Jerry said. “But Will is quick as a cat and you can’t beat him down. He gets after you on defense.”
Remember now, that’s a grandfather speaking.
Jerry Henderson is a loyal Tomcat fan who is a strong admirer of Biggs. “He’s a good coach,” Jerry said. “I look forward to watching the Tomcats play in that first game.”
So what happens if Ashland and West Jessamine happen to meet in the AIT finals?
“It’d be a good problem because it means they would be in the finals. There are problems and there are good problems.
“It could be like when Kentucky and Florida play, I root for Florida,” said the former Gator.
Using that logic, does that mean the former Tomcat would root against his grandson?
Well, uh, no.
“I’m for Will,” he said. “Blood is thicker than water.”
MARK MAYNARD can be reached at email@example.com or (606) 326-2648.