Californian adapts to Minnesota winter, college hoops

Jaden Henley
Courtesy U of M Athletics

Sports Odds & Ends

There are approximately 100 African American and other student-athletes of color this school year at the University of Minnesota. In an occasional series throughout the school year and sports year, the MSR will highlight many of these players. This week: Gopher freshman Jaden Henley. 

The Christmastime winter storm that gripped most of the country, including Minnesota, was a new experience for Jaden Henley.

“It’s my first time actually meeting this type of weather,” admitted the Ontario, CA native during a phone interview—our scheduled in-person one-on-one was shelved due to the weather. Henley is in his first year at Minnesota, leaving the West Coast state where he was a top prospect as a high schooler.

Because of injuries, the 6-7 Henley is unexpectedly seeing action early in his college career, getting a crash course in college hoops during his transition period. He made his collegiate debut Nov. 7 and played 23 minutes. Then four days later (Nov. 11) he led the Gophers with a 16-point performance.

“I think that’s one of the most exciting things about him is he really, really works,” Minnesota Coach Ben Johnson told the MSR when asked to briefly assess the guard/forward to date. “He’s excited to be here every day. He loves to play. He loves to work on his game.

“He loves to be in the gym,” continued the second-year coach. “He’s a sponge, a team-first guy, and he’s really developed and gotten better.”

Forced to adapt to the colder winter environment, Henley said, “I’m adjusted pretty well,” On college ball thus far, “It’s really different. I’m always trying to get better.” 

Johnson agreed: “I think a big focus has been just improving his perimeter game. So now can he go from a good shooter to an elite-type shooter? 

“I’m really excited about what he’s gonna bring to the table,” Johnson continued. “He’s got a fundamental skill set. He’s got the ability to score the ball.”

Off the court, Henley is looking to study business marketing as a degree pursuit. Said the freshman of his first semester in college, “A lot of people around me helped me adjust to school.” 

Cheyney State team, with C. Vivian Stringer coaching
Courtesy of Twitter

Will HOF honor Cheyney?

When the Basketball Hall of Fame Class of 2023 finalists is announced during NBA All-Star Weekend in February, many are hoping that the 1982 Cheyney University NCAA Final Four team is among that number.  

The Cheyney squad, who played in the first-ever NCAA women’s national championship game, losing to Louisiana Tech 76-62, certainly have the credentials worthy of HOF consideration:

  • First and only HBCU to compete in a Final Four and title game
  • First and only HBCU to win an NCAA regional title and a trip to the Final Four
  • Undefeated at home for four seasons
  • Finished ranked No. 2 in the country, the highest national ranking ever for an HBCU basketball team
  • 23-game win streak snapped in the finals, finishing 28-3

Delaware State Deputy Athletic Director Kyle Adams is among those pushing hard for that Cheyney State club to get its rightful place in history and fully recognized as such. According to him, “In 1982, 10 years after Title IX, an HBCU with an all-Black women’s coaching staff did the unthinkable. 

“Vivian Stringer, Carlotta Shaffer and Ann Hill led Cheyney State to the NCAA Women’s Final Four title game 40 years ago. It’s time to tell their story,” Adams said.

Other notables on the 2023 HOF nominees list include the 1976 U.S. Women’s Olympic Team, players Valerie Walker, Bob Love, Paul Silas and Yolanda Laney, contributors Will Robinson and Simon Gourdine, the NBA’s first Black deputy commissioner.

The Class of 2023 will be announced during the NCAA men’s basketball Final Four and will be officially enshrined in the Hall of Fame on August 12.

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