Five years ago in a crowded Washington, D.C. gym, Slippery Rock head coach Bobby McGraw first saw now-senior forward Morgan Henderson in action at an AAU tournament.
McGraw remembered turning to then-assistant coach Ryenn Micaletti and saying that they needed to find out who that girl was and start recruiting her right away.
“The first time I laid eyes on her was at an AAU tournament in Washington, D.C. and the girl she was guarding… when I tell you she was 6’6” or 6’7” and 200 pounds, she was guarding an absolute monster. Morgan was being so physical with her and wasn’t back down from her, and I remember that I turned to my assistant at the time, Ryenn Micaletti, and I said to her, ‘You’ve got to get that girl,’” explained McGraw.
Fast-forward four years and 111 games in a Green and White jersey, Henderson has now set the SRU record for most games ever played in women’s basketball history.
“I’ve known that I was going to play here for four years, but I didn’t know that I was close to beating the record,” said Henderson. “It’s kind of a shock to me.”
A constant at The Rock over the past four seasons, Henderson has played in every possible game during her time at SRU. After starting just six games during her freshman season, Henderson has started in all but five games since the start of her sophomore season.
McGraw attributes Henderson’s durability to the fact that she completely transformed her body following last season’s early Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference tournament loss and how she has remained in remarkable physical condition this season.
“The physical conditioning that she has now. The shape that she got herself into… she killed herself after last season to get to where she wanted to be,” McGraw stated. “Her quickness now has gone through the roof. She won both of our timed miles before the season, and there are some very athletic people on this team.”
Remarkable durability aside, Henderson has continued to climb career leaderboards this season. Henderson, early childhood and special education major, ranks fourth and fifth in career offensive and defensive rebounds, respectively.
While the contributions on the scoresheet in terms of rebounds, blocked shots and minutes played steal the show, McGraw pointed to the way Henderson’s leadership abilities have evolved since coming to SRU.
“As she’s gotten older and matured, she’s become a much more vocal leader,” said McGraw. “That’s the way it usually happens. We’re proud of the way she’s transformed, not only a leader in the way she plays but being a vocal leader, too.”
After attempting just nine three-point shots as a freshman, Henderson has transformed her game to become the best shooting center in the league, according to McGraw. Henderson’s ability to space the court has led to the paint being open for junior guard Brooke Hinderliter and redshirt senior guard Ciara Patterson to drive for easy baskets.
The way Henderson has impacted Rock Basketball has come as no surprise to McGraw who realized early in her true freshman season that he had a player who could be special.
“It was a game that we did not win. I knew Morgan was going to be good in this league, but this was when she opened my eyes and I thought, ‘She’s really going to make an impact in this league.’ West Liberty was No. 13 in the nation, we played them at home. I’ll never forget this: she was four of five from the field and had seven or eight rebounds as a true freshman. She just stepped on the floor and we realized that she was the real deal just like we thought.”
With 111 games now in the books for Henderson, Saturday’s home matchup against Gannon University serves two purposes: deciding whether the Green and White will advance to the PSAC tournament and deciding whether it will be her last game with The Rock.
Needing to win to clinch a league playoff spot, Saturday’s home game will serve as the biggest game of Henderson’s career. McGraw, never one to shy away from promises, stuck by his word that this team will clinch the last tournament berth.
“After we beat Gannon on Saturday and get into the conference tournament, she’s going to have appeared in two or three conference tournaments and there are not too many players that can say that. Hopefully, her lasting memory will be making a run, not just getting in. This year we want to make a run,” McGraw said.
Henderson expressed how breaking the program record was bittersweet with the end of her career finally in sight, but the end can be postponed with a victory on Saturday.
Now that Henderson finally has the career record for games played, McGraw warned his star forward that another player is breathing down her neck.
“We joked about it before the game,” said McGraw. “I congratulated her and forewarned her that Brooke [Hinderliter] is going break it next year. But she’s going to have it for a year and that’s something to be proud of. That is a lot of basketball games.”
Regardless of whether or not Henderson’s record is one day broken, she forever holds a place in Rock Basketball history.