When you discuss the best point guards to come out of the city of Chicago you would be remiss not to mention Cordell Henry. A 5″10 point guard that was part of the 1998 Whitney Young State Championship team which included future NBA player Quentin Richardson. Cordell was a highly recruited prospect for many colleges but ultimately settled on nearby Marquette University where he is number nine on the schools all-time list with assists and in his senior year played alongside another future NBA player, Dwyane Wade. Broadcaster Dick Vitale once remarked that Cordell “had ice in his veins” because of his ability to make clutch shots. While experts predicted him being a 2nd round draft pick with excellent performances at the Chicago Pre–Draft and Portsmouth Invitational. Somehow, the undersized guard was overlooked for players such as Dan Dickau (28th draft pick in 2002) who he outplayed by the way when Marquette matched up against Gonzaga. Keep in mind this was an era of the NBA where international players were the current fad, similar to how undersized guards like the Los Angeles Clippers Chris Paul are now. Also the argument could be made the league was more competitive as Michael Jordan was still in the league. Nonetheless, he played on a couple NBA exhibition teams such as the Memphis Grizzlies but made a career overseas playing in Venezuela, France, Mexico, Portugal, and the Dominican Republic. Now that his professional basketball career is behind him and he has moved on to being a coach and worked at the collegiate level the past four years. I caught up with the former floor general Cordell Henry, for this exclusive interview:
What made you love basketball?
My older brother used to play basketball at the park and dribble in the basement. I was emulating him.
Could you speak about your grammar school and high school experiences? Did you play AAU and attend any basketball camps, do you attribute any of those camps or coaches to helping you develop your game and what are the names of those camps/coaches?
Everything kind of molded me. I was going to Little Flowers in 3rd grade and in 4th grade I transferred to Vanderpoel and made the 8th grade team as a 4th grader. I ended up quitting in 4th grade because I didn’t feel comfortable but rejoined the team in fifth grade and felt more comfortable. As for AAU I played for the Illinois Warriors and did the whole grassroots program. By high school at Whitney Young I had developed a mindset for success because I had been through a lot in terms of coaches. When I played for West Pullman we would get the paddle, so I developed discipline.
Why did you choose Marquette University? Do you feel that the style of play at Marquette prepared you for the next level?
One reason was because it was close to home. I did my research as well and they had a reputation for small guards coupled with them recruiting me heavily and being able to come in and start as a freshman was an added incentive. In my first year the coach who recruited me was fired. Tom Crean came in after winning a championship at Michigan State as an assistant coach and pushed my game to another level. In my junior year Dwayne Wade came in but set out his freshman year and I was able to mentor him. In my senior year we played together and we’re ranked coming into the season.
What skill set do you feel that you lacked to make it to the NBA?
The only knock with me was height.
Do you feel like the style of play that you have was more suited for the NBA of your era or the current NBA?
The current NBA because I see a lot of similarities. I have a nice mid-range game and was always good at the pick and roll, coming off screens and knocking down shots.
Who is you favorite player of all time, why? Who is your favorite player right now, why?
That’s a no brainer. Michael Jordan is the greatest of all time. He had that “it” factor. I got a chance to workout with Jordan when he was training at Hoops Gym and get feedback. His approach of being successful and drive is unparalleled. Right now, Lebron gets a lot of flack. Does he whine? Yes, but he competes and makes people around him better. He also does a lot off the court with the youth like scholarships for instance. He makes the people around him better. Leadership is huge. Carmelo Anthony had J.R. Smith but when Lebron got him he made him a better player. When J.R Smith was with Cleveland he had a lack of professionalism off the court, not that it all falls on Carmelo but the leader of the team sets the standard.
Of all of the Chicago players the people that most commonly come up with that could of been NBA players, potentially stars in the NBA, the most common names are Paul McPherson, Ronnie Fields, and Benji Wilson you played in the Paul McPherson era can you give me the rise and fall of Paul McPherson in your words?
I wouldn’t say the fall, he was a JUCO All American. He played with the Phoenix Suns. With the NBA it’s a numbers game. It’s only so many rosters and being an undersized player. He was a competitor and made it to the league which was a tremendous accomplishment, it just didn’t work out.
Who do you think are the top five players to ever come out of Chicago?
That’s a tough one. Isaiah Thomas, D. Wade, Ben Wilson, Mark Aguirre, and people might say I’m bias but Quentin Richardson. Playing with Quentin in high school, you knew he was on another level. I never seen someone dominate high school and college like him.
Do you think your basketball career would have been better if you were taller?
I would have had a better shot at the NBA but I love the path God put me on. Getting to go overseas meant more to me.
Why don’t more NBA players date WNBA players and create super NBA players?
Candice Wiggins recently said 98% of the WNBA are lesbians. I don’t know how true that is but I think a lot of players in the NBA are turned off by that whole culture.
What do you think about basketball camps costing so much money, do you think a certain community is being exiled because of the cost and location of the camps? Do you think their should be more high quality basketball camps in urban communities that are free?
Absolutely I think their should be more free camps. I went to Tim Hardaway, Terry Cummings, and Juwan Howard camps at no cost. It gave me something to look forward to every summer and pushed me harder and enhanced my vision. If the youth in urban areas don’t see anything, what can they run with besides crime? Anybody can grab a kid and make a positive impact whether it’s basketball, golf, tennis, or guitar. If you made it, it’s your responsibility to mentor.
What’s next for Cordell Henry?
I’m coaching girls in Florida. I plan on doing more work with the youth. For me it’s bigger than sports it’s about relationships. It’s beauty in doing something the right way. I’ve seen recruits make careless tweets that hinted to potential character flaws that could possibly hurt their recruiting. I eventually want to start an academy to teach urban youth the proper etiquette for certain situations. I coached college for four years before coming to Florida and I figure if I can reach them in 2nd or 3rd grade, by the time they are in high school they will know how to conduct themselves.