Feb. 10, 2012
by Ken McMillan, Times Herald-Record
WEST POINT - Army coach Joe Alberici has been around a lot of great lacrosse programs, and he believes senior Tim Henderson is the best "offensive" defensive midfielder in the country and perhaps the best he's ever coached.
The coaches in the Patriot League have high regards for Henderson, too, voting him the preseason defensive player of the year. The media have named him a preseason all-American.
Add to that the fact the Rochester Rattlers of Major League Lacrosse have already drafted Henderson for the upcoming season and one might think the upstate Tully product would be full of himself.
That's hardly the case.
The soft-spoken Henderson said the preseason recognition is "a tremendous honor" and the draft notice "is a cool experience" but his focus is only on this season, Friday's opener with visiting Massachusetts and trying to win a Patriot League title.
"After the season I will take my accolades in stride," he said. "Right now I have my priorities."
Henderson is being counted on to provide leadership to a team that lost three all-Americans and nine others to graduation. Last season, the Black Knights were 9-6 overall and did not make the NCAA tournament, falling to Colgate in the Patriot League semifinals.
"I am really excited for his senior year," Alberici said of Henderson. "He has been a starter for us for three years and has done remarkable things. Now he's had his best preseason. I think he's headed for, hopefully, his best season yet."
Alberici believes Henderson has raised the level of his game to match the added responsibility of being named team captain.
"You have to lead from the front and set the example," Alberici said. "He did a great job of setting the example for hard work, intensity and focus. That helped his play and the play of everyone else, as well."
In lacrosse, long sticks are reserved for defensive-oriented players, who are able to use the long reach to parry an offensive player on attack, whether it's driving them to a certain spot on the field or trying to knock the ball loose. Henderson is not a typical long-stick midfielder who immediately heads to the sideline when Army goes on offense. If the Black Knights are in fast-break transition, Henderson will often rush the offensive zone and join the play until the opportunity is exhausted. He had two goals as a freshman and sophomore and five goals during his junior year.
"Tim has got tremendous skills," Alberici said. "He's a great shooter. He's making all the proper reads in the transition game. You will find most teams are game-planning for him when he comes down in transition ... they will treat him as though he has a short stick, he's that skilled and that much of a threat."
Henderson's bread-and-butter, though, is his defensive work. Standing 6-foot-3 with a long wingspan, Henderson takes up a lot of room on the field, forcing the opposition away from the three-time Patriot League all-star. Henderson is assigned to mark the opponent's top midfielder, taking away a significant part of their attack.
Henderson has amassed 101 groundballs and forced 50 turnovers over the past two seasons.
"Groundballs is an attitude thing," he said. "It's all about your heart. You try as hard as you can and things will go your way."
When the season is over, Henderson will turn his attention to pro lacrosse and a career as a field artillery officer. If all goes well, he will join a line of Army players who have managed one or two summers in Major League Lacrosse. In January, Henderson was the 35th overall pick (third in the fifth round) by Rochester.
Henderson's older brother Bill, a 2010 West Point graduate, played last season for Hamilton and was traded to Chesapeake in the offseason. Tim said a trade may be in the works to reunite the brothers in Rochester.