Former Lansing Eastern star LaDontae Henton has led the Providence Friars to their first NCAA Tournament appearance since the 2003-04 season. Here is how the Lansing native has gotten to this point.
High School Standout
Before LaDontae Henton even played in a high school game he made a name for himself through his earlier years of playing AAU basketball. Henton was always known as a tough kid, a hard-nosed player and great rebounder. Nicknamed “Buckets” it is no surprise Henton also has a natural ability to put the ball in the basket. Henton quickly made an impact for Eastern, and earned a reputation as not just one of the best players in the Lansing area, but in the state of Michigan as well. Henton became Mid-Michigan’s first 4 time all state selection since 2000. Henton was also only the 4th player from Mid-Michigan to score 2,000 points, joining a name you may be familiar with: Earvin “Magic” Johnson. By his junior year, there was no doubt who the king of Mid-Michigan basketball was; it was Buckets. He was the Lansing State Journal’s player of the year his junior season (he went on to win it his senior year as well). He absolutely shredded the competition his junior year, with an impressive stat line of: 24.8 points, 14.5 rebounds, 2.6 blocks, 2.5 assists, and 2.3 steals per game. He led the Quakers to a 22-3 record and a District Championship that season.
How Henton followed up his impressive junior campaign was even more impressive. During his senior season LaDontae put up 25.2 points, 14.5 rebounds, 5.2 assists, 3.1 blocks, and 2.2 steals per game. He recorded a double double in 19 of 20 regular season games. In perhaps the best game of Henton’s high school career, he recorded a triple double against Saginaw Arthur Hill, where he scored 39 points to go along with 19 boards and a staggering 11 blocks. He was Michigan’s class “A” player of the year of 2011 and runner up for Mr. Basketball that same year.
Henton received national interest from schools all over the country. However, despite his outstanding high school career, not a lot of blue chip programs offered him a scholarship. Perhaps his best offer came from Penn State. LaDontae originally signed to play for coach Brian Gregory at the University of Dayton. But after Gregory bolted to Georgia Tech, Henton opted out of his national letter of intent and re-opened his recruitment. He later went on to sign with Providence College and play for head coach Ed Cooley.
Big Man On Campus
Henton has started every game since arriving at Providence. And here he is today, leading the Friars to a Big East Tournament Championship and an NCAA Tournament birth. He comes in perhaps playing the best basketball of his college career, and it is no surprise it is on the biggest stage. Henton didn’t sit out a single minute in the Big East Tournament, playing all 40 minutes each game. In the opening round he scored 16 points and brought down 11 boards in a win vs St Johns. In the second round he had his best statistical performance of the tournament, scoring 26 points and grabbing 14 rebounds in a win over Seton Hall. But it was the championship game where he was needed most- and delivered in a big way, with their tournament hopes on the line and a showdown with soon to be National Player of the Year Doug McDermott and Creighton. It was a tough shooting night for Henton, going 3-10 from the field. But when the game was on the line and Creighton was within 2 points with under a minute left, he hit a mid range jumper to extend the lead to 4. On the ensuing Creighton possession he rebounded a McDermott miss, got fouled and hit both free throws to extend the lead to 6. And that was it. It was over, Providence was heading to the NCAA Tournament. Anyone who has watched LaDontae over the years was not surprised one bit that he came through in the clutch. LaDontae isn’t backing down from the bright lights, that much is a given.
The Friars are an underdog in their first game of the tournament, as they take on one of the blue chip programs that didn’t offer Henton out of high school; North Carolina. Don’t be surprised if the Friars upset the Tar Heels, and Henton is a big part of it. Henton has proven himself through his play his whole life, and the NCAA Tournament is just another stage for him to do so. Win or lose, one thing is for sure; LaDontae Henton will come ready to play and continue to prove why he is Lansing’s Finest.