“Today he really got us,” Henson joked Wednesday afternoon at the Smith Center following his workout with strength and conditioning coach Jonas Sahratian.
When Henson arrived as a gangly freshman two summers ago, such a session was unfathomable.
“I wouldn’t have made it (through this workout back then), honestly,” Henson said. “He would have had me on the side doing something different than everybody else. But now I can hang with the guys.”
The daily weight updates and Sahratian’s meal watching are a thing of the past for the rising junior – not to say he isn’t still checking the scale regularly this offseason – but he’s grown accustomed to the dietary regimen and now the greater focus is about strength rather than pounds.
“I’m about 220 – I hit 220 two weeks ago,” said Henson, who arrived in Chapel Hill as a freshman weighing 183. “I was 221 at the most and now I’m back down to about 218-ish. It fluctuates … I don’t know (if the actual number) is important anymore, it’s just that any weight can help. And at the next level I’ll need to be bigger than I am. I just want to get stronger – not necessarily gain weight, just get stronger.”
As if the scale wasn’t enough of an indicator, the need for bigger clothes was an encouraging reminder in recent weeks when he came across his freshman year wardrobe during summer cleaning and found the shirts and pants far too small to fit anymore.
And the Carolina pros back in Chapel Hill have noticed, too.
“They used to pick on me and try extra hard to push me just to mess with me – now they play honest,” Henson said. “It helps a lot when you’re stronger.”
After a second-team All-ACC sophomore campaign, Henson has been focused on skill development this summer and notices it paying dividends.
“I come in and work out with Raymond Felton or Sean May or Jawad (Williams) – they’ll be working out and I’ll hop in … I’ve been working hard on my jumper with Harrison (Barnes),” Henson said, speaking confidently about the reliability of his jump shot and the increased effectiveness of his hook shot with either hand.
“That’s what you want to do during the summer – get better. My improvement has really taken off.“
However, for the Tar Heel that seemingly never stops smiling, the summer is also a time for fun – off the court with such team foolishness as joining the Twitter planking phenomenon and on the court with his participation over the next few weeks in the Greater NC Pro-Am.
“I just play in it because I like the crowd and I’m the type of guy that likes to play in any situation and any game,” he said of the Pro-Am. “If you ask me to play, I’m going to try and play. And it’s fun to get people that can’t come to the games in Chapel Hill to come out for free and see me play.”
Henson opted to return for his junior season because his game isn’t ready yet for the next level, but he stresses that he also did it because of his love for college and the joy he gets from being a kid, an aspect of his life that is sure to change when he enters the professional ranks.
In the meantime, in spite of the expectations and pressure building for his team this coming season, and the NBA career that awaits in the years to come, Henson is living the Roy Williams proverb about appreciating the journey.
“I’m just enjoying it now and we’ll see what happens,” he said.