On the numerous projections, lists and "big boards" that are created for the NBA Draft you are hard-pressed to find a player from the Big East anywhere.
That should not deter you however, (insert NBA team here) from picking up one of the greatest players in the history of Providence Friar Basketball.
Here is what you have in LaDontae Henton.
When Henton finished his career at Eastern High School in his hometown of Lansing, Michigan not many schools came calling for a basketball scholarship. That included a school just four miles down road in East Lansing—Michigan State. Henton decided to play his college ball at Providence and immediately made an impact during his freshman season.
In this first season with the Friars, Henton averaged 14.3 points, 8.6 rebounds and shot 45 percent from the field. However, in the "old Big East" the Friars struggled towards the end of the season and lost 15 of their last 19 games despite Henton averaging 15.1 points per game during that span. If the Friar faithful could take one positive thing from the disastrous end of Henton’s freshman season it was that LaDontae was only going to get better—and he did.
Some would argue that Henton’s freshman year, based on the numbers, was his best all-around season with the Friars. In his final three years at Providence, Henton’s rebounds, assists and field goal percentage did match what he had freshman year, but other aspects of his game have grown in a big way.
Henton’s scoring went up five points per game between his freshman and senior seasons. As a senior, Henton was the top scorer in the conference with 19.7 points per game including numerous 30- and 40-point games where he carried the Friars to victory.
His leadership and clutch factor have also grown over his four years in Providence. Henton hit many key shots in wins over Notre Dame, Miami, Georgetown and others last season.
Even if the drop in statistics still scares you, consider the fact that many of Henton’s numbers including his 6.5 rebounds and 44.6 field goal percentage are not too far off from his freshman season. Also consider that Providence relied on Henton for most of the scoring while Ben Bentil and Carson Desrosiers among others were relied on to rebound.
Henton finished his career with 2,059 points and 1,054 rebounds. He was the second Friar, after Ryan Gomes, to ever reach those numbers and was the fourth player in Big East history to score 2,000 points joining Patrick Ewing, Alonzo Mourning and Gomes.
So what are you getting from Henton in the NBA?
First of all, a 6-foot-6, 215 pound forward with a body that translates well to the next level. Henton can run and shoot with the guards on the perimeter in addition to battling with the forwards in the paint. The physical strength that Henton can provide a team allows him to play bigger and jostle for position with longer players down low.
One of the great parts of Henton’s game that will translate well to the NBA is his overall aggressive offensive play. Players in the NBA will have a dilemma when guarding him because of his natural scoring ability. Henton can beat you in the post, transition or from deep. Over the past year, he has worked on a mid-range shot as well and it has turned that into a weapon too. For defenses, Henton could certainly turn into a matchup nightmare.
A key attribute that comes up with Henton time and time again is that he is not afraid on anything. He will take contact in the lane, but also the clutch shot to win in crunch time. Henton is not afraid of driving into the teeth of a defense and getting banged up whether he is going up for a shot or an offensive rebound.
LaDontae is also very "LaDurable" as I mentioned during my campaign to make him the Big East Player of the Year. He may have been robbed of that award, but no one can take away the fact that he played in at least 30 minutes per game in all but three games during his senior year. In those three games, the Friars won handily and were resting Henton for the more difficult games ahead.
Henton, like many NBA prospects, does need to make some big improvements and adjustments in order to be successful at the next level. For Henton, the issue is defense.
In many games, especially in Big East play, there were times where Henton would lose his man on the defensive end and by the time he caught up with them they were drilling a shot. On and away from the ball Henton struggles to play solid defense, which must improve if he wants to see the floor in the NBA.
Many of the problems that we see with Henton are due to his quickness or lack thereof. We know how athletic NBA players are and when Henton goes up against faster guards or forwards he could be at a disadvantage. Henton will likely get an NBA Summer League invite, but will have to improve in order make it to a training camp let alone a roster in the association.
Henton’s shot selection on offense has come into question at times too, especially from the perimeter. At times he will force up shots and shoot too early in the shot clock if the Friars were playing at a fast pace. In general, Henton needs to improve his three point shooting because he will likely be a shooting guard at the next level.
Also Henton’s ability to distribute the basketball is an issue since he only averaged 1.1 dimes a game in college. He did have the ball in his hands most of the time, but in Henton’s defense there were not many Providence players worth passing the ball to on offense. The exception is Kris Dunn, who only played with Henton last season and accounted for the majority of the assisting. Henton may have had those low assist numbers because he was the best and sometimes only offensive option on his team.
During a game last season, ESPN’s Doris Burke called Henton "one of the most underrated players in the country." Now Henton looks to add his skills to a team that is looking improve offensively or even build a championship roster.
Henton told reporters after his workout with the Pistons that he has been "underrated" his entire life. Do not be surprised if he uses that chip on his shoulder as the driving force in making an NBA team.