Myke Henry probably thought his time was up at NBA G League Showcase 2018, the league’s major annual in-season scouting event. The forward had already played his two games for the Oklahoma City Blue, the NBA G League affiliate of the Oklahoma City Thunder, in last month’s event and was likely preparing to head back to the states the next day. He had put up a solid showing in those games, including a 21 point (10-15 FG), five rebound and five assist performance against Fort Wayne. Then, Henry got a phone call.
“It all kind of happened so fast,” said Henry following his Hustle debut. “It was surreal. I was in the hotel room just relaxing, then my agent called and said the Grizzlies wanted to sign me to a two-way deal. I kind of didn’t believe it, I was in awe at first. Then he said ‘No, I’m serious’. It’s been crazy the last 24 hours.”
On the final day of NBA G League Showcase 2018, January 13, with the deadline to sign two-way contracts looming, the Grizzlies waived two-way player Vince Hunter and signed Henry to the two-way spot alongside guard Kobi Simmons. As a result, Henry would get an unexpected third game at this year’s Showcase, and he made the absolute most of it.
The fun didn’t end at Showcase for Henry. Just a week later, Henry made his NBA debut at Smoothie King Center in New Orleans during a loss to the Pelicans. Then, two days following his debut, Henry blew the roof off the building in his FedExForum debut, helping the Grizzlies to a win over the Philadelphia 76ers with 12 points on 4-of-8 shooting (3-5 3P) while totaling four steals, two rebounds and two assists. Since, Henry has appeared in six other games with the NBA club and is averaging 5.5 points, 1.6 rebounds, 1.0 assists and 1.12 steals in eight games total. More recently, in his last two appearances with the Grizzlies on February 1 and February 11, Henry is averaging 9.0 points per game on 7-of-11 shooting from the field.
“It’s preparation and dedication to your craft,” Memphis Grizzlies Interim Head Coach J.B. Bickerstaff explained following the win over Philadelphia. “Myke has been a guy who has worked, he’s grinded and he’s gotten an opportunity. He got his first taste of it the other night (against New Orleans). I think he kind of shook all of the cob webs off but his number was called and he’s got a belief in trusting his training. He works at his shot. He works at being a good basketball player. When you do that, it gives you the confidence that in any moment, if called upon, you can deliver.
Any first day at a new office can be an adjustment. You’re dealing with new people, a new system, a new way of doing business. That also holds true on the basketball court with a new coach, new plays and new teammates. It’s a formula that goes against the assumption of instant success. Henry didn’t even get a chance to practice with his new team first. The team had a 4 p.m. tip-off, which meant no shootaround. His only experience with his new squad prior to game one was a film session in a conference room at the Toronto Airport Holiday Inn. Henry, however, didn’t let that phase him. He had a game to prepare for that day against a solid Maine Red Claws team.
With two games already under his belt at Showcase this year, on top of his appearance last season, Henry said that you have to stay in the moment and not worry about the bevy of scouts and outside distractions in order to have success at this event.
“You can’t let the noise around you distract from what we have going on as a program,” said Henry. “What we want to do is be a pest on defense and move and share the ball on offense. You can’t get caught up with the scouts and all the noise going on around you and you’ve got to stay focused. I’ve got to give props to the team for doing that.”
Through the first three quarters of his Hustle debut, Henry was solid and had scored 11 points off the bench. The Hustle had chipped away at a 12-point deficit to cut it 93-88 by the end of the third period. Then came the fourth quarter. Henry exploded for 15 points on 5-of-7 shooting (3-4 3P) and everything the Red Claws hit the Hustle with, he seemed to have an answer for, particularly in the final five minutes.
With Memphis trailing 105-102 at the 6:23 mark, Henry recorded a layup and a three-pointer on consecutive possessions to give the Hustle its first lead since 9:22 remaining in the second quarter. Maine would reclaim a 115-112 lead, but Henry responded with another three to tie the game at 115 with 2:10 remaining. After a Maine basket on the next possession, Henry nailed another three to give the Hustle the lead for good. Memphis’ chances were bolstered in the final minute with a Henry layup and a drawn charge by Jeremy Morgan to foul out Anthony Bennett. Henry sealed the game by hitting two free throws with 1.8 seconds remaining.
“I thought Myke was phenomenal,” said Hustle head coach Glynn Cyprien following the team’s win. “He kind of learned on the run, so to speak, offensively. We just had him in, had a sit down for about an hour before the game and we just ran some simple stuff for him. Some of the things he got in the offense were because he’s such a good player with such a high IQ and knows how to play with a good feel. That says a lot about him and we’re excited to have him.”