Ken Cross, Columnist
Charlotte basketball coach Alan Major put together an outstanding recruiting class for this year that features virtual upgrades at every position on the floor. However, early in the season, he is getting the most output from freshman point guard Pierria Henry, who has operated like a seasoned veteran through the first one-third of the schedule.
Henry, who signed with the 49ers out of South Charleston High School in Charleston, W.Va., is starting to gain notoriety in the Atlantic 10 as well as nationally. He is currently second in the A-10 and ninth in the NCAA in steals (2.9 per game) as his 6-3 frame gives Charlotte nice length on the point.
In addition, he has shot 48.1% from the field and is flourishing with an assists/steal-turnover ratio of 61-22 in 28.9 mpg. on the point.
“A big difference is the speed of the game and the fundamentals of the game,” noted Henry of the transition he has made from a strong high school career, “The basketball IQ part - there is still a lot to learn and I’m young.”
To call, Henry a “warrior” may be a understatement, as he is giving Major even more than he hoped for so quickly. He gets 4.2 rpg. from his spot and doesn’t mind the bumps and bruises as he is becoming a noted slasher into the lane.
One noticeable thing about Henry is that he understands his responsibility for Major and the 49ers already, and he just doesn’t ever take a possession off, an anomaly for a freshman.
“The team has faith in me just like I have faith in them," he said enthusiastically, “I would run through a wall for this team, just like I think they would run through a wall for me.”
Henry’s maturity as a freshman comes from the AAU ranks and a major leadership role in an impeccably great high school career. He helped lead South Charleston to two state championships in football as well as finishing with over 1,300 points in a stellar high school hoops career.
He declined an offer from Marshall University to play football in order to sign with Major and Charlotte. The success on the football field could be a reason he has contributed so much, so quickly. One of his most notable exploits was breaking Randy Moss’s record for the longest touchdown in a state title game when he took a short out route and turned on his speed for an 89-yard touchdown reception.
In the end, that maturity showed Henry how to upgrade his game from high school, where many nights there was no competition and domination was easy, to AAU, where there was a penchant for playing as many as four games in one day, and then, into major college basketball, where the game is the totality of a way of life.
“It’s still playing the game of basketball,” he enumerated, “The only difference, like in AAU, is traveling back and forth more and focusing on studying when you get home. I came here because of the coaching staff and I though they could teach me a lot to make me a better player.”
Last Thursday night, Miami’s Hurricanes of the ACC came to Halton Arena and left with a 76-61 victory. The loss ended a five game winning streak that had seen Charlotte hold its opponents to 34.1% from the floor and as Henry had a 2.3 assist-to-turnover ration during that stretch. He played 34 minutes on Thursday and finished with eight points and committed only one turnover.
“We have found the little things we have to do and have gotten it going as a team,” noted Henry, “We’ve just gotta keep playing hard, you know we are gonna win some and gonna lose some. We have to rely on each other.”
Major’s rebuilding is coming along quietly and quickly as Charlotte is winning games it should except for a surprising 18-point early-season loss at Lamar. Henry, though, cautions by reiterating patience.
We have got to do things step by step,” he said, “As a team, it is a learning experience, and we have some little things we have to pick up on and of course it is a long season.”
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Internal photo of Charlotte head coach Alan Major courtesy of Charlotte Athletics Media Relations