James Woodrow "Skip" Henderson, Jr. (born September 27, 1965) is an American former basketball player known for his collegiate career at Marshall University between 1984–85 and 1987–88. Henderson, a 6'2" point guard, established himself as one of the premier players to ever play in the Southern Conference (SoCon), amassing a conference-record 2,574 points (eventually broken by Davidson's Stephen Curry 21 years later); this total still stands as Marshall's all-time record. Henderson was a four-time First Team All-SoCon selection, and as a senior in 1987–88 he was named the SoCon Player of the Year.
Henderson grew up in Cartersville, Georgia at a time when that town had "very little crime and very little drugs," according to Bobby Carr, his basketball coach at Cartersville High School. He described Henderson as an "All-American kid" who was voted as Mr. Cartersville High School by his peers. In high school, Henderson played quarterback for the football team, point guard for the basketball team and also played baseball in the spring.Messer, Jacob (May 19, 2009). "Ex-basketball star James 'Skip' Henderson in prison without parole still fighting". yuku.com. Charleston Daily Mail. Retrieved May 31, 2013.
Henderson enrolled at Marshall University, then a member of NCAA Division I's Southern Conference, in the fall of 1984 to play for the Thundering Herd men's basketball team. On the court, Henderson was one of the best players in the league for the duration of his four-year career. He led Marshall to three postseason tournaments: the 1985 and 1987 NCAA Tournaments as well as the 1988 National Invitation Tournament (NIT). The Thundering Herd were twice SoCon regular season champions (1986–87 and 1987–88) and twice SoCon Tournament champions (1984–85 and 1986–87). Every single season Henderson led the team in points per game, and in his final three seasons he led them in steals. During his sophomore season in 1985–86, he was Marshall's team leader in points, steals and assists. He rewrote the school record books, among them are still-standing records for points in a game (55), season (804) and career (2,574). His career total stood for 21 years as the SoCon mark until Stephen Curry broke it in 2008–09. Additionally, his 55-point game was played in the quarterfinals of the 1988 Southern Conference Tournament against The Citadel. This set both the Marshall and conference tournament records simultaneously. He was named the SoCon Player of the Year as a senior."2012–13 Men's Basketball Records and Awards History" (PDF). Fact Book. Marshall University. 2012. Retrieved May 31, 2013. Cite error: The named reference JAIL was invoked but never defined (see the help page). Sapakoff, Gene (March 5, 1988). "Henderson's Double-Edged Record Game" (PDF). The News and Courier. Retrieved May 31, 2013.
Troubled post-college life
Off the basketball court, Henderson began to dabble in smoking marijuana and drinking alcohol, giving in to peer pressure. Having been a straight-laced type of child growing up, this newly found college freedom and access to substances affected Henderson. Eventually his addictions grew, and by his senior year he was trying cocaine and crack. Besides drug use, Henderson made other poor decisions, such as deciding to drop out of Marshall—just two months before he was set to earn his bachelor's degree in Sports Management—in order to play in the United States Basketball League for the New Haven Skyhawks. Henderson was then selected third overall by the Charleston Gunners of the Continental Basketball Association (CBA) in the 1988 CBA Draft, but two days before the season's opening game, the CBA suspended Henderson for testing positive for cocaine use. This suspension was, ironically, right before the "Say No to Drugs"-themed season opener. Other transgressions outside of basketball led Henderson to numerous run-ins with the law.
On September 24, 2001, Henderson hijacked a car at gunpoint, kidnapped the driver for a brief amount of time, robbed a convenience store for petty cash ($360 in total), and threatened the store clerk with the gun. This night was fueled by drug use, of which he had been clean for two years up until that night. Henderson said that his wife had just died and it was an emotionally turbulent time for him, which is why he got back into drugs. The crimes he committed that evening landed him in prison, and since he was a repeat offender, Henderson was given life without parole. Despite a potential National Basketball Association career coming out of Marshall University, Henderson's decisions have him now facing the probability of spending the rest of his life in a jail cell in the state of Georgia.Cite error: The named reference JAIL was invoked but never defined (see the help page).