North Carolina A&T's R.J. Buck fights for the loose ball with University of Louisville's Tim Henderson during the second half of play in their second round NCAA basketball game at Rupp Arena in Lexington

Tim Henderson walks on to the Final Four for Louisville

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Who’s that guy?

You’d be forgiven for asking that when you look at the Louisville lineup taking the floor in Atlanta right now. Where Kevin Ware would usually be standing in the pressure defense, there’s an unfamiliar face. He’s Tim Henderson, a Louisville local who walked on to the team. A 6’2″, 195-lb. junior, he’s averaged 3.6 minutes per game for his career as a Card. His 14 minutes and three points in a 64-61 home win over Pitt in January were by far the most he’s played all year long.

Henderson didn’t step foot on the floor for the Cards in last year’s run to the Final Four. This year, in the wake of the injury to Kevin Ware, he’s been called into action in one of the program’s most crucial games.

For fun, let’s give him his proper fifteen minutes of fame, courtesy of his bio on the Louisville basketball page:

  • Personal goal at UofL is to get an education and win a national title.
  • Enjoys playing baseball, football and Xbox in his spare time.
  • Chose to attend UofL because “I’ve been a fan my whole life.”
  • Best basketball advice given to him was hard work pays off.
  • Few people know that he sleeps with the television on.
  • Most proud of his family.
  • His entire family has had the greatest influence on his athletic career.
  • Feels Leonardo DiCaprio would be the best actor to play him in a movie.
  • When he played basketball as a kid, he pretended he was Larry Bird.

My favorite part of the well-worn bullet-point list (a staple for these kinds of bios) is the “hard work pays off” admonition. It’s worth noting for several reasons. If you really pay attention to college hoops, you know that the walk-ons put in brutal, bruising practice sessions against the team’s stars, and they do it for the love of the program. The only reward they usually get is the frantic quest to get in the box score at the end of a blowout.

There’s no doubt at all in my mind that Tim Henderson would rather have Kevin Ware healthy and in his rightful place on the floor. But Henderson earns huge props as the guy who put in the work, stayed ready, and got his shot on the big stage. It’s the walk-on’s dream.

Of course, Henderson could go one step further. He could be a small, but memorable part of fulfilling that first bullet point on his list.

UPDATE: Maybe not so small a part.

 

Eric Angevine is the editor of Storming the Floor. He tweets @stfhoops.

Gonzaga’s NCAA tournament chances take a major blow in loss to No. 16 SMU

SMU guard Nic Moore (11) shoots over Gonzaga forward Kyle Wiltjer (33) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Jim Cowsert)
(AP Photo/Jim Cowsert)
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Nic Moore scored 18 of his 25 points in the second half and added 11 assists as No. 16 SMU knocked off Gonzaga in Moody Coliseum on Saturday night, 69-60.

The Zags got 20 points and 16 boards from Domantas Sabonis, but Kyle Wiltjer scored just four points and shot 2-for-17 from the floor.

It wasn’t pretty.

And it may have been the end of Gonzaga’s NCAA tournament hopes.

Entering Saturday, the Zags had an RPI in the mid-60s, enough to keep them in the bubble conversation but not enough to make them anything more than a team that will be projected to end up on the cut-line.

The issue is a complete lack of quality wins on their résumé. Gonzaga beat UConn in the Bahamas. That’s a borderline top 50 win. They beat Washington, another borderline top 50 win. Beyond that? They swept Pepperdine, beat Tennessee and own a win over Montana. None of those are top 100 wins, and that’s why the SMU game was such a big deal. The Mustangs are a top 25 team. This was a road game. This win was the kind of thing that the Zags could pin at the top of their profile.

But Wiltjer didn’t show up, the Zags had no answer for Moore and they’ll head back to Spokane needing, in all likelihood, to win the WCC’s automatic bid if they want to dance.

POSTERIZED: Cal’s Jaylen Brown has his dunk contest entry

California's Jaylen Brown lays up a shot against Oregon State in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Berkeley, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
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Cal picked up a big win over Oregon State in Haas Pavilion on Saturday night, and the exclamation point was this emphatic dunk from Jaylen Brown: