Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Henson pushing Sickles to new heights

TAMPA — Aside from the prodigious basketball skills that have her an All-American at 16, the things that stand out about Sickles junior Amber Henson are her easy smile and infectious laugh.

And the way she blushes when Sickles boys basketball coach Renaldo Garcia walks by and says, "Go Gators" to Henson, one of the nation's top junior recruits. It's the former UF player's friendly way of nudging her to Gainesville.

"He does it every day," Henson says, laughing.

As easygoing as Henson is, her grasp of playing a more physical game this season has Sickles on its deepest postseason path in school history, and one win from the Gryphons' first state tournament.

Sickles (25-3) faces cross-the-bay power Boca Ciega (28-1), winner of 21 straight, in tonight's Class 5A region final. The winner advances to Wednesday's state semifinals at the Lakeland Center.

The 6-foot-4 Henson, who was named a Parade All-America fourth-team selection last year as a sophomore, plays the post because of her height, but this season, she has come into her own as a post player.

She said it's something her father, Matt, a former college player at Norfolk State, had been harping on for years — that combining her natural talent with a killer instinct creates a more complete player.

"Over the summer I spent more time in the weight room than in the gym, which really helped my game," Henson said. "… I started to notice I was getting more and-ones. That was the biggest factor, being able to finish with contact."

Gryphons coach Mark Key has noticed. Henson heads into tonight's game averaging 23.3 points, 11.9 rebounds and 5.1 blocks. She's averaging 28.5 points in two region tournament games.

"She's a big-time player and in our big games she's played big," Key said.

Both Henson and Key said that after moving to Tampa from Texas two summers ago, Henson is more comfortable with her role on the team. She's not afraid to be aggressive on the court and a leader off it.

"When I first got here, I had to kind of feel my way into it and see where I fit in," Henson said. "Now, I've become more of a leader so I can get on someone without them without them saying, 'Oh, here's this new girl.' "

This year, with a supporting cast that includes blossoming sophomores Bre Crum and Rachel Smith and stabilizing seniors Erica Early and Lindsey Botts, it has translated into Sickles' best season yet.

"We've really matured this year, we're taking better shots, we know how to finish games now," Henson said. "We just know how to win."

Henson, rated the fourth-best junior in the nation by ESPNU, said she plans to make her college decision this spring but her focus is on Lakeland.

"That would be like a dream come true right now," she said. "I could care less about the points and the awards and everything. My main goal right now is helping my team to states."

Henson pushing Sickles to new heights 02/19/10 [Last modified: Friday, February 19, 2010 11:08pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. What Wilson Ramos will mean to the Rays lineup, pitching

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Chris Archer was stumping for all-star votes for Corey Dickerson during a live interview Wednesday morning on the MLB Network when he lifted the right earpiece on his headset and said, "I hear a buffalo coming."

    Tampa Bay Rays catcher Wilson Ramos (40) waves to the crowd after being presented with the Silver Slugger Award before the start of the game between the New York Yankees and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Tuesday, April 4, 2017.
  2. Jameis Winston as 2017 NFL MVP? 66-to-1 odds from Vegas


    Could Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston be an NFL MVP in 2017? It's certainly unlikely, but the sports book at Bovada has opening lines with Winston getting 66-to-1 odds, worse than 22 other players across the league.

    Bucs fans would be very happy if quarterback Jameis WInston can put himself into consideration for the NFL MVP award during the 2017 season.
  3. Deon Cain, Duke Dawson, Derrick Nnadi among SI's top 100 players


    Sports Illustrated's countdown of the top 100 players in college football continues with three more local players.

  4. The greatest coaches never to win it all


    As foregone conclusions go, some things are approaching the death-and-taxes stratosphere: summer humidity in Florida, a Kardashian seeking attention, and Mike Martin coming up short in Omaha.

    Florida State coach Mike Martin walks to the mound to talk to pitcher Cole Sands during the second inning of the team's NCAA College World Series baseball game against LSU Wednesday in Omaha, Neb. [AP photo]
  5. Bucs fans ranked 25th in study of NFL teams


    The Bucs and their fans are ranked 25th in an Emory University study of NFL teams' "fan base and branding analysis."

    Bucs fans were on their feet for this fourth-quarter play at home against the Carolina Panthers at Raymond James Stadium in 2015.