Inside the Mandalay Bay Convention Center at the G League Showcase in Las Vegas, all eyes and television cameras focused on an 18-year-old guard seated at the end of the bench who will soon be the face of an NBA franchise.
Ignite point guard Scoot Henderson had several ESPN cameras recording him cheering on his teammates from the sideline as he missed games at the Showcase due to injury.
After the Ignite played the final game on Tuesday, Dec. 20, Henderson spoke with HoopsHype for an exclusive interview. Henderson discussed how the G League experience has shaped his development, why he should be the face of an NBA team, the battle with Victor Wembanyama to go No. 1 overall in the draft, a scouting report on his game, player comparisons, and more.
What has the G League Ignite done to help you develop in your two-year experience?
Scoot Henderson: I feel like it helped me develop as a person. I have a lot of time off of the court being a pro. Basketball is basically a job and something you’ve got to perfect. It just helped me find out who I was and learn a bunch off the court, and it gave me that pro mindset heading to the next level.
Do you feel like opponents play against you with a chip on their shoulder because you have a more guaranteed path to the NBA, whereas they’re trying to prove themselves?
SH: I don’t really worry about who has a chip on their shoulder. I come in with a chip on my shoulder too. I’ve got a family to feed. My family depends on me now that I’m trying to get to the league too. I’m not too worried if someone has a chip on their shoulder playing against me coming into the game on the scouting report because I’m coming with the same energy, if not even more.
If you could’ve played in the NBA already and the rules were different, would you have gone to the NBA earlier?
SH: I feel like I would’ve done at least one year with the Ignite. It taught me a lot. I feel like I have the talent. It was just the work that I had to put in for the league. I think Ignite was my best decision.
Why should a team select you as the face of their franchise?
SH: First of all, my face is precious. I’m good-looking. I think that’s one reason. Who wouldn’t want me as the face of their franchise? Other than that, my skills, I’m a good person. I try to encourage others, my peers.
Victor Wembanyama said he felt he should be the No. 1 pick. Does that matter to you?
SH: I’m blessed to be in the position I am for sure. I want to be No. 1. It’s my competitive spirit. I’m itching to be No. 1 in whatever I do, whether it’s badminton, pickleball, or whatever it is, I want to win. Second is great as well, but No. 1 is the goal.
People write scouting reports on you, so I’ll ask you, what’s your scouting report on your strengths?
SH: I feel like my best strength is to drive and kick, to go 100 miles per hour and still be able to see the whole court and make quick decisions. I feel like I can damn near do it all at this point. I’m still working on my game, my three-point shot and my mid-range shot, still perfecting getting to the cup. I’m watching film to try and be a smarter player and be a better defender. I’m getting better on defense. Coaches Jason Hart and CJ Williams have been helping me.
What other parts of your game do you want to work on in your development?
SH: I want to work on being vocal. I feel like, during adversity, I still want to keep bringing along my teammates. If we’re down a couple of points, I still want to have that same energy I’d have if we were up 20 points. I want to perfect that part of my game and my leadership.
Who would you compare your game to now, and who do you hope to become one day?
SH: Right now, probably who people say over and over again, Russell Westbrook. I want to be like Andre Miller with the pace and the ability to see the floor. Pass like Chris Paul and be smart. On a skillset level, I want to be like Damian Lillard. I want to be a clash of all those guys. On defense, be like Jrue Holiday. I watch all of their film and try to be that one whole player.
I was trying to meet Andre. I was watching film of him before the game. Miller was going slow as heck, but he was getting whatever he wanted. I feel I have the ability to go slow and fast and still get what I want.
What have you learned from the guys who’ve been in the NBA, like John Jenkins and Pooh Jeter?
SH: They try to install hard work. John shows up before a lot of people are at practice. He’s older than all of us. He shows us how hard it is to stay in the league. I feel like I have to work harder than him if I want to be great. If I want to be in the league now, I feel like I have to work double as hard as him. I talk with Pooh all the time. He helped me take a huge leap in my development.
Who did you grow up watching?
SH: I grew up watching Kobe Bryant. He was my favorite player of all time.
Was there anyone you tried to model your game after?
SH: I used to watch Russell Westbrook highlights before games. His aggressiveness is like that dog in you that you’ve got to have. I try to not mimic it, but see how I can bring that out of myself.
What motivates you day to day?
SH: My family. My little sister, my mom, and dad. I want to be a household name. I want everyone to know the name Scoot Henderson. I want to be great. I looked up to Kobe. Everything he talked about was like the whole aspect of being great is it’s not just the people around you or the work you put in, but it’s playing for the fans.
One day you’ll hang up your sneakers after a long career. In that time, what would you like to accomplish?
SH: At least one championship. A ring or two, hopefully. Whatever path God takes me on. As long as I continue to work hard, I feel like it’ll all come.
Have you ever thought about having your own signature shoe?
SH: Definitely. I used to create my own shoes on NBA2K.
You have girls and boys AAU teams. What's your goal with them?
SH: It’s a development AAU program in Marietta, Georgia. The practice gym is Next Play 360. My family owns it. I want to give kids an outlet to hoop and have that as their home. I feel like the program is for people who are ready to work and have that built-in mindset. Nothing is going to come to you if you don’t work for it. I want good kids to come through there. We teach them how to play basketball and take young players as well that are girls or boys. I feel like it’s going to be one of the best AAU programs in the next few years if we continue to develop.
Is there any adversity you’ve overcome to get you where you are now and where you want to go?
SH: Last year, I was in a slump during the season. Teams started to figure out the scouting report on me. I felt things weren’t going my way at one point, so I started worrying about too many things. I feel like I overcame that and asked Dame Lillard for advice. During that time, I was in the hotel room frustrated, so I just decided to bust my a**. I forgot about it, went on to the next practice and game, and continued to build.
What’s something people may not know about you?
SH: I’m into fashion. I like reading self-development and self-enhancement books. I’m a simple person. I play video games like every other teenager. I’ve got two dogs, two American bulldogs, Brandon and Xero. I spelled it that way for something different. I have a big family and support group.
You can follow Michael Scotto (@MikeAScotto) on Twitter.