Mitchell: Henry working hard, still adjusting to new role

Julian Mitchell, Men's Basketball Beat Reporter

EAST LANSING — Everyone wants to know just what’s wrong with Aaron Henry. 

Ever since the Spartan forward put up two points on 1-of-2 shooting against Duke, the media and fans have been wondering just what’s wrong with the sophomore. Couple that with Sunday’s performance, three points while shooting 1-of-6 from the field in a 71-42 loss to Purdue and therein lies the problem. 

This isn’t how his sophomore season was supposed to go. Expectations were high after a terrific postseason in his freshman year where he poured in 20 points in a Sweet 16 victory over LSU. 

This year he was supposed to become the Manu Ginóbili to Cassius Winston’s Tony Parker and Xavier Tillman’s Tim Duncan. 

Now he’s shown something else, some say it’s a lack of confidence or killer instinct, but really nobody knows. That’s why every time someone puts a microphone in his face, they ask him about it.  

Many 20-year-olds would rightfully be angry when people constantly question their mindset or attitude, or write stories about how they need to be better, but Henry seems to take it all in stride. 

“That’s y’all job man, I got a job, y’all got a job. I’m here to answer questions, I’ll sit here all night. That’s just what I’m asked to do,” Henry said. 

It’s a mature answer for someone so young, it’s even more mature to recognize that he hasn’t been playing up to par. He was even able to put that “hesitation” he has seemed to play with into words.

“I don’t want to mess up, I mean that’s where it comes from. It’s just I don’t want to be the guy to turn the ball over or take a bad shot,” he said. 

“Just being the player I am and the role I have on this team now, I gotta take those risks and whether it happens it happens and whether development comes, it’s going to be based off me and what I decide to do.”

The development hasn’t come easy and he’s been spending every day trying to figure it out and make the adjustment.

“It’s just like in high school, you know when you come in as a freshman it’s a whole different speed of the game and it changes, and then getting here the game is changing again for me. I’m still adjusting to it and I got a new role this year compared to just me being a role player last year and I’m still getting used to it,” Henry said. 

With news of star guard Joshua Langford’s season-ending injury, Henry was once again thrust into the spotlight. After expecting to just be a role player, he now has to become a scorer and the third member of the band that is Winston and Tillman. 

“I mean, no excuse for the way I’ve been playing or how much I need to improve, but I’m going to get better with it. I just hope everybody keeps faith in me and the people who don’t, I mean that’s okay too. I still love y’all, but it is what it is,” he said. 

Henry said that this isn’t the first time he’s gone through a stretch like this. His sophomore year of high school, he struggled to adjust. It was his coach much like Tom Izzo now stressing the small things like rebounding and letting the game come to him that helped. 

“He knows that with me being hesitant with some things on offense, he knows what I bring in other aspects of the game and he knows once that part comes the rest is history honestly,” Henry said. 

Izzo and the rest of the team have remained faithful in Henry and that he’s going to turn it around. They know that if they want a chance at cutting down the nets in Atlanta, he has to play to his potential and be the third star of this team. 

We all know Aaron’s got to play better, as I said, he’s been rebounding the ball better and his attitude has been great,” Izzo said. “He’s just found a way to disappear, and we need him to appear.”

No one knows when that appearance will happen. Not Izzo, not the team, not the media. Honestly, I don’t even know if Henry does. But until then, he’s going to keep on answering the questions and smiling through it all. 

“God is good, God is good. Every day he woke me up this morning, I got an opportunity to breathe and play the game I love and sit here and do what I enjoy doing and I pray for these type of things and I don’t have a reason to complain,” he said.

Contact Julian Mitchell at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @j_michell25.