Chuck McGill: Herd hosts former SC star Henry, who found a home with Charlotte
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Pierria Henry will suit up in green and white tonight and play in front of family and friends at Marshall University's Henderson Center.
It is a scenario he played out in his mind a time or two when he was being recruited by Marshall as a two-sport star out of South Charleston High School three years ago. Now the junior is wearing Charlotte's green and white and is one of the marquee players on the men's basketball team at the first-year Conference USA school.
Tonight, the 49ers visit Marshall to give the 6-foot-4 all-everything guard a chance to return to the Mountain State.
"I didn't really circle it on the calendar or anything," said Henry, who leads Charlotte in scoring, assists and steals since Conference USA play commenced. "Now that it is here, I appreciate the opportunity to play in West Virginia again, especially now that my career is almost over."
He might've been able to do that at Marshall, but it's hard to argue with his decision in hindsight.
Henry has averaged 12.1 points, 5.1 rebounds and 6.1 assists in 27 games this season. He is one of only six Division I players who are averaging at least 12 points, five rebounds and five assists per game. The others: UCLA's Kyle Anderson, Louisiana-Lafayette's Elfrid Payton, West Virginia's Juwan Staten, Iowa State's DeAndre Kane and Utah's Delon Wright.
Entering tonight's game in Huntington, Henry has 867 points, 420 rebounds, 382 assists and 216 steals in his three-year collegiate career. He is on pace to become the only player in program history to eclipse 1,000 points, 500 rebounds and 500 assists, and if he keeps up his current pace he'll become Charlotte's all-time leader in assists, steals and minutes played.
Keith Williams had 515 career assists from 1983-87 and Eddie Basden collected 264 steals from 2002-05. Henry should soar to the top of both of those lists sometime during his senior season, barring injuries. He could finish with four of the top six single-season steals totals in program history.
That is a long way from splitting time and attention between the gridiron and hardwood at Marshall, where he could've caught touchdown passes from Rakeem Cato and played alongside close friend TyQuane Goard — instead of against him — in the time between bowl games and spring football drills.
Henry said he thinks about football "every day ... every single day."
"It's always in my mind," said Henry, who will have eligibility remaining when Charlotte's football program debuts this fall. "Right now I'm trying to finish this season off strong and get through my last year of college."
He said he was "close" to joining the Thundering Herd. The pluses — not the drawbacks — of competing at the Division I level in multiple sports intrigued him.
"It wasn't anything against Marshall or the coaching staff there," Henry said of choosing Charlotte. "I wanted to get out of the state of West Virginia and see a different part of the United States. Me growing up in West Virginia, I didn't know what opportunity was out there for me. It made me want to work hard and get up out of there and get a full scholarship.
"I found there was more to life out there."
Charlotte is 15-13 overall and 6-9 in its first year in Conference USA.
When Henry committed to the 49ers, he had no idea conference realignment would give him the opportunity to play against Marshall (10-20, 4-11 C-USA).
The next possession is what's important.
"I'm the type of guy who lives day by day, who doesn't look into the future too much," he said. "I don't have many plans. I just go with the flow ... enjoy the process.
"I just want to go as far as basketball will take me. I'll ride it until the wheels fall off."