Myke Henry has adjusted to the coaching styles and specific systems of four coaches in his four collegiate seasons.
Oct. 9, 2015
CHICAGO – Myke Henry might be perfectly suited to our fast-paced, ever-changing world where innovative technology and social media make a one-year-old invention seem practically outdated.
The DePaul senior forward is that rare basketball player who has suited up for four different coaches in the four years of competing in college basketball.
As a freshman, he played for coach Bruce Weber at Illinois as part of a freshman class rated among the top 15 recruiting classes in the country.
That was the 2011-12 season in which the Fighting Illini went 17-15 overall and 6-12 in the Big Ten. It would be Weber’s final year in Champaign after Illinois lost nine of its final 10 games.
As a sophomore, Henry played for Weber’s replacement and current Illini coach John Groce. Henry transferred to DePaul after that season, sat out the 2013-14 season as required by NCAA rules and became a starter for Blue Demon coach Oliver Purnell.
Purnell resigned after the 2014-15 season, and new coach Dave Leitao is Henry’s fourth.
“Going through four coaches in four years is not as hard as it sounds,” said Henry who averaged 3.2 points in 8.1 minutes per game as a freshman. “Learning a new system each time was the most challenging for me. Each coach has his specifics of what he thinks will work. The first time it happens is the most difficult, and it gets a little bit easier after that.
“In my freshman year at Illinois with coach Weber, I had to lose a lot of weight. I tried to lose around 20 pounds because I wanted to be a lot quicker. I came in with pretty high expectations.
“I wanted to contribute right away. Each time coach Weber put me in, I felt like I was productive. We had a rough season with no NCAA or NIT. I tried to stay positive and not get down.”
Weber was at the end of his run in Champaign.
“At the end of the season, coach Weber told us in a meeting that he was going to be fired,” Henry said. “I was kind of shocked. I had not paid attention to what the media was saying about him. I wondered what I was going to do now.
“I could have transferred, but I stayed because I thought things were going to get better.”
Groce came in and appeared to have things going in the right direction in his inaugural season.
“My sophomore year was the best year of my career,” said Henry who averaged 3.2 pts in 10.6 minutes. “We were 23-13 and made it to the second round of the NCAA tournament. We had great team chemistry and everybody got along. That year, we were like family."
After his sophomore season in Champaign, Henry decided to continue his career closer to home. The former Orr standout transferred to DePaul, sat out the 2013-14 season and became a starter last year.
“I transferred from Illinois because I needed a new situation to help advance my career,” said Henry who was the second-leading scorer at 12 points per game and led the team in rebounding (5.4 a game) in 28.1 minutes per game as a junior.
“I liked DePaul because it was an opportunity to play on the wing and showcase my talent. It was also a chance to be closer to home, and my family and high school coaches were all excited to come and watch me play.
“DePaul is a better fit for me. I like the way DePaul plays up and down the court. I like playing with physical contact and having a body on me.”
Henry shared some of the insight he acquired at Illinois.
“What I learned at Illinois and brought to DePaul is that everybody on your team is important, whether it’s your best player or the No. 15 guy on the roster,” Henry said. “If someone has an off-night or poor game, you encourage your teammate more than ever.
“Everybody on the team has to believe in the mission and everybody has to be all-in. Whether I’d be one of the leading scorers at Illinois like I am at DePaul doesn’t matter. I’m here at DePaul, and that’s all that counts.
“It was different coming to DePaul from Illinois. Coach Purnell tried to push us harder, but sometimes the players weren’t responding to him. Coach Purnell stressed playing together as a team and emphasized defense. We did a lot of pressing with him.”
And once again, Henry is starting over adapting to a different coaching style and learning a new system.
“With coach Leitao, it’s different from last year,” Henry said. “There’s a lot of discipline and coach Leitao is always pushing us to work harder and get better every day. He is a lot tougher on us.
“He puts us in situations requiring us to be mentally and physically tough. At the same time, he always stresses picking up your teammate and don’t just think about yourself. There’s been more toughness and also better communication. I really like it.”
The Blue Demons recently had two days of training with a staff member of The Program. Led by retired U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Sam Cila, the team participated in an intense two-day experience of shared adversity on the court and in the pool.
“You learn to figure out a way to get everybody in line during times of adversity,” Henry said. “Say an opponent goes on an 8-0 run. We have to find a way to answer back.
“One of the hardest drills was taking a sweatshirt off in the water while treading water in the deep end. Everybody had to take it off and then hold it up. The drill wasn’t complete until everybody was holding up a sweatshirt.
“Some guys had a hard time with it. But the next time they’re at the free throw line needing one to tie and two to win, they’ll think back on the adversity training and realize making those free throws is easy compared to what they went through.”
Henry took a moment to reflect on the four coaches.
“It’s not easy to compare coaches,” Henry said. “They all want what is best for you. They have a common goal of wanting to bring out the best in you.
“They want you to develop toughness and to grow up and be a man. Their teaching ability was similar. Coach Leitao is very good at communication, and coach Groce was good, too.”
Season ticket packages for the 2015-16 DePaul men's basketball season are on sale now featuring great savings and the best seats available. Show your commitment today by placing a $50 deposit and be a part of the BIG EAST action next season. Flexible mini packages and group ticket offers are also available for purchase. Call the DePaul ticket office at (773) 325-SLAM (7526) and speak with a ticket representative or go to www.depaulbluedemons.com/tickets to learn more about joining the excitement of DePaul athletics.