Frank Martin updates AJ Lawson’s NBA quest, USC’s open scholarship
Micaiah Henry has only been connected to South Carolina’s basketball program for less than a month. He went from a graduate transfer seeking a school to meeting Frank Martin in Tennessee to visiting USC to, finally, committing to the Gamecocks last Friday.
But the soon-to-be Darla Moore School of Business student is a quick learner. A Tennessee Tech forward from 2016-19, Henry can already analyze with confidence why he believes Carolina has a good shot at making the 2020 NCAA tournament.
“Well, they had a really good SEC season last year,” Henry told The State on Sunday, referencing USC’s fourth-place league finish. “And that’s with the injuries to Justin Minaya and the young point guard, T.J. Moss. So I think with those guys coming back and other guys like Jair Bolden, who will be ready to play as a transfer, I think with all the guys coming back with a little more experience and working on their games and developing, I think we have a shot to do some pretty special things.”
South Carolina hasn’t made the NCAA tournament since the 2017 Final Four run. Martin’s program is 33-32 the last two years, narrowly missing the NIT each time.
Henry was part of two 19-win teams at Tennessee Tech, but the Golden Eagles never captured the Ohio Valley Conference tournament and, thus, never went to the Big Dance. It’s a goal of his to get that experience in his final college season. And, as he alluded to, USC has some pieces to make it happen.
Where Henry could fit has already been laid out to him by Martin and the Carolina staff.
“They pretty much just said if I come in and put in the work,” Henry said, “the way things are set up and the way they teach things, I’ll be able to help them rebound and score around the basket, defend around the basket. ... They brought me in with hopes to do those things. And hopefully I can help them evaluate to a championship level.”
Henry, a listed 6-foot-9, 235-pounder, averaged 9.7 points and 4.7 rebounds last season at TTU. He shot 57.9 percent from the floor (fifth best in the OVC) and averaged 1.8 blocks per game (No. 2 in the OVC). Those measurables are nearly identical to the departed Chris Silva. No, Henry’s not expected to produce on Silva’s All-SEC level, but he does have Silva-like qualities that can complement a guard-focused lineup.
Henry’s 114 career blocks are 10 fewer than Silva’s total through three years.
“If I had one skill coming into college, like a Division I skill, it would definitely be rim protection,” said Henry, a Georgia native. “I just value every possession. I’m not a guy who likes to give up easy buckets, especially layups around the rim and things of that nature.
“Yeah, blocking shots is huge for me, man. It stops another team’s momentum and can get yours going. I think it’s huge.”
According to Sports Reference, Henry averaged 7.6 rebounds per 40 minutes last season. That’s slightly below Maik Kotsar (8.0), but above Felipe Haase (6.4), whose April transfer opened a spot for Henry.
“I know that’s the probably the biggest thing I need to bring to South Carolina,” Henry said. “So I’m just going to be relentless chasing the ball on both ends and try to create as many possessions for the team as possible.”
Henry chose the Gamecocks a few days after visiting Virginia Tech. A finance degree in hand, he’s enrolling in the business school and will begin graduate classes in July. He plans to be at USC for basketball workouts in June.
“I’m really a fan of Coach Martin’s system and how he runs things,” Henry said. “And I just think the team has potential to be really good this year. And I really have hopes of going to the NCAA tournament for my last year.”