By Haylee Davis
When I joined the Samford Men’s Basketball Team as a manager, I expected to meet the players, coaches, athletic trainers and other managers that are a part of making the team a success. However, I did not expect to meet the energetic, encouraging and inspirational graduate assistant, Stanley Henderson.
On my first day of practice, I didn’t know anyone, so I stood stiffly watching the players and coaches talk with one another and prepare for practice. As I was standing by myself, I saw Henderson cross the gym and walk towards me. He walked up to me, introduced himself and started a conversation as if he had known me my whole life. As practice continued, I came to realize that he had made connections with all the players, managers and coaches. This was the first time I saw that Henderson tries his best to get to know the people around him, and he pays attention to every single person in the gym.
Brody Boyer, a new player on the basketball team, attested to Henderson’s people-loving personality.
“He is a people person,” Boyer said. “He is not scared to talk to anybody.”
This is clearly portrayed by how connected Henderson is with each person on the team. Not only does he cheer every person on, but he challenges them to become their best.
“I want to be somebody you can always lean on and pour into people so they can bring more out of themselves,” Henderson said.
Henderson strives to give advice and encouragement to each person. Whether one is going for a layup, cleaning the floor or coaching, he is there for them. Not only does he give general advice and encouragement to each person, but he tailors that advice to each person’s needs.
“There isn’t a person in our program now or when he was a player that doesn’t highly respect him because of who he is,” Head Coach Bucky McMillan said. “He can talk to everybody, regardless of their background or where they’re from.”
Henderson is not only a graduate assistant, but he is also a former player for the Samford Men’s Basketball Team. He knows both the struggle and victory that comes with playing with the team. He underwent two ACL surgeries in his time as a basketball player. After recovering from his surgeries, he was able to play an entire season before becoming a student manager and graduate assistant.
“He was going through more pain than everybody but always found a way through it to help the group,” McMillan said when asked about Henderson’s time as a player.
Not only did Henderson push through the pain to be the best he could, but he did it for the team.
“One thing Samford basketball has taught me is perseverance and being able to adapt to any circumstance,” Henderson said.
Being injured was never a part of Henderson’s plan, but it taught him a lot about himself and about life. His main focus changed to being about himself to helping the team be the best they could be. Andrew Barbour, who has been a manager for the team since Henderson first started playing for Samford, explained that Henderson has been able to “make a good situation out of a bad one.”
His ACL surgeries defined what the future of his basketball career looked like. He realized that the possibility of playing professionally was lost due to the injuries. His injuries eventually led him to the position he is in now, working as the team’s graduate assistant while pursuing a master’s degree.
“It’s like taking a leap and going out on God’s will and just having faith,” Henderson said.
Because Henderson knows how it feels to play with the team, he can connect with the players on another level.
“He is a player coach, so he has been through the system. He knows the emotions and also what you go through as a player,” Boyer said.
Not only does Henderson focus on the players, but he also encourages the managers, coaches and anyone else involved with the team. Henderson expressed that he wants to be “somebody that is dedicated to helping others” but also someone who “helps those who feel like they don’t have what it takes to help themselves, like the underprivileged, people from unfortunate circumstances in life, and those who feel like the odds are against them.” He knows what it feels like for his life plan to be ruined in mere moments, but he also knows that it’s possible to recover and find a different perspective and path in life. He knows the importance of hard work, connecting with others and trusting God’s will.
“What is stopping you from doing what the next person can do is the circumstances you go through,” Henderson said.
The more I attended practices, the more I saw how Henderson uses his experience to help lead those around him. From my first conversation with him, I noticed his natural leadership, how he pushes everyone to be their best, and how he always works hard to help the team reach their full potential.
“I just want to see everyone win,” Henderson said.
He lives this out every day by encouraging others, being the loudest one in the gym and by simply walking up and introducing himself to someone new, like me.
“No matter what Stanley is doing, he is going to be doing well!” McMillan said. “He is a champion.”