Freshman Meagan Henson claims she’s been the shortest player on every basketball team she’s ever been on. The shortest in YMCA, the shortest in middle and high school, the shortest on Amateur Athletic Union teams and now, naturally, shortest in college. But the Lady Frogs’ reserve point guard hasn’t allowed her roughly five-foot frame to slow her down yet 8212; Henson fights size with speed.
The women’s basketball team lists Henson at 5-feet, but programs are notorious for fibbing an inch or so in favor of the home team. She would be an easy target for shot blockers 8212; if only they could catch her. Henson darts around the court using quick cuts and blink-and-you’ll-miss-it crossovers to get open looks at the basket.
With a disadvantage not only in height but in reach as well, Henson had to learn to first and foremost to protect the basketball.
“I think one of the main things that’s helped me is ballhandling,” Henson said. “That’s my responsibility. There’s always going to be good shooters or good rebounders, but that’s not going to be what I need to do.”
Lady Frogs head basketball coach Jeff Mittie has known Henson since she was a preteen. She played on an AAU team with his daughter, so Mittie was willing to take a chance on Henson’s unique skill set. Even if she didn’t immediately contribute as a player, Mittie believed she had the tools to get better.
“[We] felt good about all the other things,” Mittie said. “Her attitude was going to be great, her work ethic was going to be great and all those things have been very good.”
On the court, Henson hasn’t been perfect, but no freshman is.
She’s appeared in 12 out of 18 games for the Lady Frogs this season, averaging 5.4 minutes per appearance. Her stats aren’t eye-popping, but her breakneck pace has turned heads.
“I think as she understands her role better, you’ll see her play better, but she’s certainly been exciting when she’s been in the game,” Mittie said.
This is mostly a learning year for Henson. She’s happy to be getting some clean-up minutes but happier to learn from All-Mountain West Conference seniors Emily Carter and Helena Sverrisdottir.
“Everyone wants to play, but I’m learning from Helena [and] Emily,” Henson said. “There’s just been great senior leadership, so it’s been a good time for me to learn and mature.”
Her teammates don’t give her too hard a time about her height.
“I’ve known most of them for a while, so they’re pretty much used to it,” Henson said. “And if they do [give me a hard time], you know, it’s okay.”
She’s used to doubters.
“As far as being one of the smaller players, most people aren’t sure if that’s going to be the sport for you, but I liked it, so I kept after it,” Henson said. “I didn’t really worry [about] what people had said to me because it’s something I like to do.”
She quieted many of those doubts at Christian Heritage Academy, the high school she attended outside of Oklahoma City, Okla. Hensonled the 2A program to the state tournament for the first time in school history. Her senior season, she averaged 15.6 points, 4.6 assists and 2.6 steals per game in addition to shooting 42.5 percent from 3-point range.
Whether she can achieve similar success in college basketball remains to be seen, but one thing is sure 8212; her skills can translate to a match-up nightmare for the opposition.
“It’s a different factor,” Mittie said. “It’s a different dynamic to the game. You’ve seen some teams that have said, “We’re not sure what to do with this player.'”
That uncertainty may mean an increasing role on the court for Henson in the future. In the meantime, her coach will continue to get Henson playing time. He used examples of shorter players in the history of the NBA to justify the opportunity.
“You never know with a player, because you try to look at the NBA guys and you go, “Muggsy Bogues was able to do this, you know Spud Webb and those type of players,’ but you’ve got to get them in the mix to see,” Mittie said.
Bogues was 5-foot-3, and Webb 5-foot-7. Henson would have to be something special at 5-foot-0, but that won’t slow her down. She’s been speeding by doubters for a long time now.