his lungs were on fire.
He continued to run from baseline to baseline on a court splattered with black and red splashes and printed with his mantra, “Excessive Determination to Dominance.” At both ends of the court he caught passes and shots. I needed this shot to break through the net.
Scoot Henderson imagined he had just stolen a basketball after a playoff game when it was handed to his trainer. He could barely breathe, so he could hardly jump and shoot. The ball hit the rim and bounced off.
He repeated the scenario and this time scored. He sank into the front row of the aluminum stands that line the court at his family’s gym north of Atlanta.
Ms. Henderson resisted the teenage urge to hit the snooze button on her 7:30 alarm that morning to get that feeling.He was exhausted, excited and focused on building ‘adult strength’ for the looming transition to the NBA
By this date in mid-May, 19-year-old Henderson had already been a professional basketball player for two years. He graduated from high school a year early in 2021 and began his apprenticeship with the Ignites, a professional team for elite contenders in the NBA’s developing G League. Now he’s done with it and is preparing to head to Chicago with his family for the NBA Draft Combine and the lottery.
With the first four picks in San Antonio, Charlotte, Portland and Houston, the lottery offered a glimpse into his future. The 6-foot-2 guard has long been expected to be the second overall pick in Thursday’s draft, behind 7-4 French star Victor Wenbanyama.henderson thinks he His training hinted at why.
A few minutes into the shooting practice, he was lying on a purple yoga mat, shirtless, wearing beige exercise shorts and black Puma sneakers. One leg was placed on an aluminum stand and the other leg was raised at a right angle to lift his trunk.
“When I do this, I wake up in the middle of the night with cramps,” says trainer Brandon Payne, who has worked with Stephen Curry for many years, of the exercise. Another trainer watching Payne timed it on an iPad.
“40 seconds,” said the timer. Henderson took a deep breath.
“Thirty seconds.” Henderson clenched his fists.
Be stronger, Henderson thought. The game he learned in the last two years was more physical and more urgent, involving a man trying to provide for a family rather than a high school student going out to play.
“Fifteen seconds.” Henderson frowned.
After two more iterations, a trainer following Payne retrieved Henderson’s sweat-soaked mat and “turned it into a towel,” quipping.
Road to NBA
Henderson slipped into the driver’s seat of a black Chevrolet Tahoe and closed the door next to him. He was on his way to the barber shop after a grueling workout at Next Play 360, a gym his parents Chris and Crystal own in Marietta, Georgia. He was used to the physical and mental pressure of lifting weights and perfecting his jump shot. Driving his Tahoe was another thing.
He had passed his driver’s test the year before, but this time he stopped as he crossed two lanes of traffic and turned left onto Canton Road. Henderson drove the SUV into the intersection, but he thought twice before backing up. He waited until there was no traffic in both directions before he hit the accelerator.
He is one of seven children aged 17 to 31, and Chris and Krystal always tell their kids not to be timid. Don’t be the one who slouches at home and regrets it, they said, be the one who dares to make mistakes. That’s what Scoot thought when he graduated from high school at 17 and dropped out of college to try for the G League.
Never before have so many arteries paved the way to the NBA for basketball prodigies from colleges, the G League, the overtime elite and international teams. , which commemorates Scoot’s choice: his arms got a little skinnier last season, when he’s competing in Ignite matches. He passed it on his way to the barbershop, now hidden under the long sleeves of a new black shirt with “Pioneer” written on the front, and next to it, a more chiseled arm. There was a skeleton riding a motorcycle.
Dropping out of college wasn’t an easy choice (though it certainly helped that Ignite reportedly paid $1 million for two seasons). But if, as expected, he’s one of NBA Commissioner Adam Silver’s first few picks in Thursday’s draft and signs a multi-million dollar contract, it could pay off big. . But it also puts pressure on you.
While Scoot was training, the gym was buzzing about recent No. 2 pick, Memphis Grizzlies guard Ja Morant. Earlier this week, the Grizzlies handed Morant his second indefinite suspension in just over two months for showing a gun during an Instagram live video. Morant apologized for his first incident and was suspended. Scoot and his friends wondered why Morant needed to carry a gun.
“It’s terrible that you’ve changed,” Scoot said of the incident.
Around noon, Scoot pulled up at a shopping center in downtown Marietta. He slowly pulled into the parking lot and then walked to the barber shop between the deli and the martial arts studio. The store smelled of leather and lavender, and a fan circulated the moist air. “SportsCenter” played highlights in the background.
Ms. Henderson wanted to braid her hair, but her flight time was approaching.
“Do you know anyone who is interested in buying or selling a home?” Irving Williams Jr., a real estate agent, uses hair clippers to taper the ends of Henderson’s hair and straighten his hairline. I read the sign above the chair.
Henderson scrolled through his iPhone.
“Who’s left in the finals?” Williams asked.
“Denver versus Philadelphia,” Henderson said. “Sorry, I meant Boston.”
Williams scored almost half an hour later, but looked like he had barely started. There were no problems. Henderson felt a fresh sense of confidence, ready to hit TV the next day.
He stops by the house to finish packing and joins his family at the gym.
Scoot is surrounded by family. Moochie, Scoot’s youngest sister, was practicing shots at the gym. She plans to play at Georgia State University in the fall. Krystal raced between her house and the gym many times, seemingly going to both places at the same time. One of her sisters is a stylist for Scoot. One is his assistant. Another thing she does is help build her profile on social media. My brother lives here and we often train together.
Assistant Onyx and her brother’s suit-wearing social media strategist Diamond joined their parents in a waiting Mercedes Sprinter van. Scoot hopped on with a bag of chips and a sports drink.
The skyscrapers of downtown Atlanta have come and gone along Interstate 75, and the tall red maple and oak trees have died.
Chris and Crystal are Long Islanders who grew up under Siren in the rap group Public Enemy. Chris is the type of New Yorker who would wear Timberland steel-toe boots, crunch snow-covered asphalt, and play hoops with his fellow cousins. However, he was visiting relatives in Georgia and was drawn south by the region’s low prices and climate. Thinking the trip from Long Island to Harlem was too far, Crystal had to persuade her to go.
Now they are getting used to jumping on planes as easily as they once were crammed into the family car.
Crystal asked Scoot if he had his ID.
Scoot stroked his gray sweatpants as if he forgot.
“Stop playing,” Crystal said.
The Hendersons only vaguely remember how they got their signature nicknames of Scoot, Bootsoo and Moochie, and rarely miss an opportunity to tease each other.
The brothers teased Chris for being unwell. He said he was going to start exercising harder but broke his shoulder.
“This is your fault,” he said, rubbing his right arm. “This is a repeat of the rebound over the years.”
When the van approached the airport, Scoot was getting closer and closer to its destination, and the importance of the journey was not mentioned, but Scoot’s life, and therefore theirs, changed forever, and little by little the unknown was revealed. It was going to happen.
Instead, Bang’s conversation largely revolved around food.
No one understands why Scoot still doesn’t eat red sauce, but his abstinence began when Scoot was a toddler, with his older brother Jade chasing him around with ketchup bottles.
spaghetti? I’m going to round my stomach.
Bolognese? I can’t stand the smell.
All dishes are inevitably compared to New York food.
“I might have to go back to Long Island,” Scoot said after attending a draft meeting in Brooklyn with his family, eyeing the opportunity to visit his favorite pastrami spot. “I may have to make that trip again.”
“Gives me confidence”
The Hendersons stepped out of the van at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport around 4 p.m.
The buttery scent of pretzels lured Mr. Scoot to Auntie Anne’s, where “I always get curious,” said Ms. Scoot, who found a seat outside Gate 21 of United Airlines. Aside from a black Louis Vuitton backpack covered in the brand’s fluorescent turquoise pattern, Scoot was little different than any other teenager traveling with his family.
He asked Krystal if he could lend her a phone charger.
“Listen, son, it’s mine,” she said. “Do I have to apply for Social Security?”
“It’s mine,” said Scoot. “You borrowed it from me a long time ago.”
“Don’t do that,” she said, handing it to him.
Scoot pulled headphones over his head and listened to Georgia rappers Kash Kani and Lil Crank.
“They aren’t rapping about good things, but it just lifts me up a little bit and gives me confidence,” he said shyly.
After a short delay, just after 6pm, the plane was ready to board. Scoot found a first-class seat on the third floor and pulled a mask over his face. He said several teammates contracted the coronavirus on flights during the season. Listening to music, he fell asleep shortly after takeoff.
About two hours later, he arrived at O’Hare International Airport and a crowd of autographers called out his name.
He was waiting for his luggage at baggage claim 14 and was surprised that they knew him. Crystal glanced sideways at some of the people approaching, but Scoot was polite and hurriedly scribbled his name on his hat and basketball with a sharpie pen.
A cotton candy-colored sky greeted the family outside the airport.
“We all made it here safely,” Chris said.
“That’s all that matters,” Crystal said.
The sky took on a variety of shades of navy blue as the van pushed its way through traffic and toward the skyscrapers of Chicago. The discussion returned to food and, most pressingly, what to eat that evening.
The van pulled off the highway and onto a street above ground. An overhead train roared in the sky.
They called Tao, an Asian bistro. Scoot ordered lamb meat.
“Scoot, are you eating lamb chops now?” Diamond asked.
“Steak,” he said.
“It’s not steak,” she said. “Literally a lamb.”
When Scoot arrived at the hotel entrance shortly after 9pm, more signatures were waiting for him. Scoot offered to take a selfie, but he couldn’t find a photographer and went indoors.
He checked in at the front desk and took the elevator to his room on the 27th floor. He requested a high floor with a partial view of Lake Michigan. The high altitude bothers him somewhat, but not so much that it avoids this perspective.
He spent the next day doing interviews and talking to Commissioner Silver before the night’s draft draw. He had heard enough rumors about Wenbanyama. Wenbanyama is said to be the de facto number one pick. It was the same cry that filled television and social media when Scoot and Wenbanyama faced off in two exhibition games in Nevada in October.
In the first game, Wenbanyama scored 37 goals for the French team Metropolitans 92. Scoot ended the game on a high note, dropping a team-high 28 points at Ignite. win.
Hearing all sorts of stories made Scoot want to rush back to the gym.