Saluting Tim Henderson And The Two Shots That Changed Everything

Andy Lyons

The biggest point spread upset in the history of the Final Four took place on April 6, 2013, when the Wichita State Shockers stunned No. 1 overall seed Louisville inside the Georgia Dome.

The loss was the second straight in the national semifinals for U of L, and marked the second time in five years that the Cardinals failed to win a national title despite being the NCAA Tournament's top overall seed. Rick Pitino doubters and haters -- a species destined to go the way of the dodo and saber-toothed tiger with a championship -- are still alive and kicking (and screaming). As the 2013-14 Cardinals make the turn towards another run in the big dance, there is sense of desperation in the city of Louisville that far outweighs any hope or excitement.

This is the world Tim Henderson spared all of us from.

My initial goal when I started writing this was to devote as little attention as possible to the two three-pointers against Wichita State, but that would be like penning Deee-Lite's biography and dedicating less than a chapter to "Groove is in the Heart."

When Chane Behanan's second free-throw cut the Shocker lead to three with just under 10 minutes to play, that was the first time I realized it. Seconds later was the first time I said it outloud.

If we win this game, it's legitimately because of Tim Henderson.

Regardless of what happens over the course of the next month, Henderson already has an established legacy that will exist for as long as the city he represents does. That's not a bad accomplishment to have in your belt at age 22.

Henderson's walk-on story was a pretty standard one for the better part of three seasons. People screamed "shoot" when he got in at the end of mid-December blowouts, he was adored on places like Card Chronicle because of the same phenomenon, and although we all knew he could play meaningful minutes at the D-I level, we all hoped he wouldn't have to in a Cardinal uniform.

Although Henderson got significant (in degree, not length) run at various points over the course of his first three seasons, the previous description was still a pretty apt one for him right up until the closing seconds of Louisville's Elite 8 victory over Duke.

There was Henderson burying the three from the right corner to set the final margin of victory over the Blue Devils and send the Cardinal bench to a higher state of bliss. It was the moment most walk-ons don't even dare to dream about. The classic "even (insert seldom-used walk-on name) scored, that's just terrific, good for him" moment in a huge NCAA Tournament game. Except, as it turned out, this wasn't a human victory cigar event, this was more of an orientation.

If that final shot in Indianapolis finds iron, then maybe Tim Henderson misses both of his field goal attempts in Atlanta...or maybe he doesn't have the confidence to even hoist the first one.

None of the speculation matters at this point. What does is that Henderson immediately followed up what had seemed like the most meaningless made field goal of Louisville's 2013 postseason with two of the most important made field goals in the history of Cardinal basketball. Just like that, in the blink of an eye, "Tim Henderson, the walk-on" became "Tim Henderson, the first player mentioned by the President during a White House celebration." Kafka couldn't have dreamt up a metamorphosis more surprising or instantaneous.

Two shots changed U of L basketball and the course of Tim Henderson's life forever. While the positive ramifications of that accurate statement far outweigh the negative, it's still somewhat of a shame that a single stretch of a single game will overshadow an entire career that would have warranted significant praise on its own.

Henderson's commitment and dedication have been apparent in the vast improvements he's made in each of his four seasons as a Cardinal. Though he hasn't received the notoriety during his senior season that he did last April, the enormous advancements in his ball handling as well as a far more consistent outside shot have been on full display every time he's taken the court. While he could have easily decided that things were never going to be better and spent the entire summer resting on the laurels of the events of the events of April 6, it's pretty clear that Henderson instead decided to work harder and get better. There's a great deal to be said for that.

Hard work and patience are traits preached by every decent authority figure in the world, and Louisville's No. 15 embodies both of those characteristics. Nobody knows if Tim Henderson will be called on once again in a huge moment at some point during the Cardinals' 2014 postseason, but everyone should know that he'll be ready.

The Wichita State heroics can't and shouldn't be ignored, but when the time comes Saturday afternoon, be sure to save some applause for everything else that Tim Henderson represents.

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