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The Rookie Report with Destanni Henderson: The Definition of Cool

As the 2022 WNBA season continues to unfold, the rookie class consistently impresses with their play and impact. Shakira Austin has scored in double digits her past three games while adding a vital defensive dynamic for the Washington Mystics (She was excellent on the first Rookie Report). Rhyne Howard is still leading the league in scoring three weeks in for the Atlanta Dream!

The Indiana Fever are pushing the pace (first in the league per HerHoopStats), absolutely flying in transition and early offense. They’re led by a loaded rookie class, as the Fever selected the most players in the first round in W history during the 2022 draft. Second-round pick, Destanni Henderson, has made waves starting games and playing a significant role after shifting back to the draft. I still am unsure how she fell out of the first round. 

Her pacing and tempo in the halfcourt have dazzled and translated to the pros immediately. 

She’s so dynamic, probing the paint, and she’s always so composed. It never feels as if she’s bothered or sped up.

Her pull-up game both inside and outside the arc opens up so much for her as a playmaker, vital for unlocking her court vision and feel for the game.

Composure. That’s the word that routinely pops up for me while watching Henny play. In speaking with her as well, I kept coming away with the same feeling. She has calming wisdom about her. I caught up with her on her team bus ride to Chicago yesterday (the Fever play the Sky at 8 pm EST tonight-(5/24)) and had a fantastic conversation getting to know more about her, her transition to the league, time at South Carolina, and much more!

We dove a bit into fashion, her drive for it, and growing her brand. If you haven’t already, go check out her website and all of the awesome stuff she has cooking.

This interview is shortened for brevity.

Mark Schindler (MS): It’s been pretty awesome to see you go from your career game during the national championship to asserting yourself in the league two months later! What’s that transition been like for you and finding your footing in Indiana on and off the court?

Destanni Henderson (DH): “Yeah, I feel like those couple of weeks of just trying to transition out of college into the pros was the most difficult part. Just trying to figure everything out. But once I got settled into Indiana, it kind of made it a little bit easier. You have to worry about stuff less. But yeah, as far as winning the national championship and then having to get ready for the draft and then having to pack all my stuff and leave. That part was a little bit difficult. But like, within each process, you know, it was great. Just trying to take in one thing at a time. And then just preparing myself for the next day.”

MS: That’s one thing that really sticks out about you, just your composure. Honestly on and off the court it feels like nothing really phases or bothers you. Where does that come from for you?

DH: “It’s just my personality that goes like, with anything, like any adversity. You know, just having a great mindset and just trying to see the good within the bad, just to keep it pushing it. Like, some things I can’t control. So I’m not going to beat myself up about it. So just have that in mind and only control the things that I could, you know?”

MS: Absolutely, I love that mindset. So coming into the W with a historic draft class, NaLyssa (Smith), Emily (Engstler), Lexie (Hull), and Queen (Egbo), what has that been like? It’s a really different environment, you’re pushing the pace like crazy and just a really young team all around. How has that been trying to find one another as new teammates and rookies acclimating?

DH: “I feel like it’s just a wonderful process, which can be difficult sometimes because we’re a brand new team, you know, us being young. We just kind of gel all of our talents together and build chemistry. We’re at that point where we can figure out you know, our style of play together. It’s been great, it’s been a process and we’re still continuing to learn that, but greatly we have each other to lean on, because it isn’t just one of us going through it, it’s multiple of us.”

MS: Going back to that pace aspect, you really thrive with your tempo and speed. Is that something that’s always come organically for you?

DH: “I’ve always been fast. So I feel like that’s just natural. But like, as I got into college, I feel like that was more installed from the coach standpoint, because, you know, that’s the thing that she wanted. So I knew specifically, okay, naturally, I have speed. So if this was, you know, this is the style of play and how we want to push the tempo, we want to play more in transition. Less halfcourt sets unless we have to, you know, that’s just secondary, but like, primarily Dawn, she wanted to push the ball in transition. I just knew I had the speed before that, and it wasn’t something that I just had to think about. It just worked out great in that instance, to just use my speed. That’s what I’m trying to do here in the pros, play more in transition and use speed and try to jump and open up anything in transition.”

MS: What have you thought of playing with Kelsey Mitchell so far?

DH: “She’s a great leader, a great player that’s fun to play with. Her ability to space out the floor and she’ll take people to the rim, the percentages shooting the ball, she’s a great shooter. But she’s, you know, off the court, even on the court, she’s a cool person. She’s somebody that you can ask her anything, you know, she responds, just your energy positive person. I feel like you really need someone like that on a team.”

MS: Going back to college, what led you to South Carolina and playing for Dawn Staley? I know they were the first school to offer you back when you were in eighth grade, something I wanna talk about after this for sure!

DH: “Her personality just sticks out like her as a coach, everything is different from a lot of other coaches and what best fits for me. Her stigma, her energy, her personality, like all of that is what I was looking for in a coach. She was the most I felt comfortable with as I got older, so that’s what really drew me to her and then also the coaching staff, just trusting and believing in her and just being a part of the program, you know, made me want to stay even longer.”

MS: So you were a big-time prep recruit and blew up pretty early on during AAU, but getting an offer in eighth grade… what is that like? How do you handle that as a person?

DH: “As a kid, you’re playing basketball and you know you want to make a career out of it. At the end of the day you’re just having fun, traveling, going state to state, playing in all these big tournaments with other kids playing basketball and just having fun. When you start getting offers at that age, it’s kind of like, you kind of have heard of and know about it, but at the same time, it’s not that it’s not serious, but you just don’t really know what’s going on unless you’ve grown up being very educated in that. You know, being that it (South Carolina) was my first, like honestly, as I got older I started to educate myself about it as I kept going and knowing the next step would be going to college. Just trying to prepare myself for that type of new journey. When I first got that offer, like I was on campus, at the university, and my coaches back at home when we were traveling for AAU tournaments and stuff like that, like they would take us to different colleges to tour them and view them and meet the coaches, just like a mini tour. They were expecting us and you know, Coach Dawn just pulled me off to the side and just said she wanted to meet with me. She gave me a full ride and that was in eighth grade, so that was my first time ever and it was in person too. Taking that all in at such a young age and going back home and trying to think about it and do my research.”

MS: I was watching back the National Title game last week and your play of course stood out, but I always come away impressed with how all out you go for game accessories. I always appreciate full-out swag on the court.

DH: “I’ve just been obsessed with wearing headbands since I was a little kid. I used to have so many different colors and styles in AAU, and ever since then, I just started loving them. As I got to college, I probably ended up losing like all of them, but it got to be like more so you can’t have crazy headbands, it has to be suitable to the team color or theme, stuff like that. So I can’t just come out with a blue or red-striped headband, you know what I’m saying? I just feel like it’s just something that I always stuck with ever since I was a kid. I love the arm sleeves as well. I would say like, my junior year is like when I just started wearing a shin leg sleeve. Which is really just an arm sleeve. And then I just put it on a leg. Just make it fit, like towards my shin area. So like, just like that type of balance. So I wear like, my arm sleeve on like my left arm, but then I wear the shin sleeve on my right. And then with the headband, just adds a little flair where it makes me feel comfortable, makes me feel good enough to play, it makes me feel great and I just stick with it.

MS: Speaking of fashion, you have your own brand (Hennything’s Possible) that you started up in 2020 during the COVID season! What or who were some influences in you starting that up and just getting into fashion overall?

DH: “It really just started when I was a kid like within my family like, we’re just a family that likes to dress good. Like my Auntie’s everybody like that, they always made sure we dressed fly, you know, had everything that we needed for special times, like Christmas and birthdays. I guess friends as well. Because that generation of you know, older people installed that in us. So like my friends as well. But it just got better as I got older. And it just became something that I’ve learned to do myself, because at that time, like when I was a kid, obviously, like my mom was dressing me, so like I just caught on, as I got older, and it just started to find my own style. So since COVID happened, that’s when I kind of branched off more into the fashion thing and decided to create more of a brand for myself, because I knew it was something that I would like to do, but I’ve never really forced or pushed myself to the limit because I was just so focused on basketball. So when COVID happened and I had so much time to where I wasn’t playing basketball and so it’s kind of like, what is it that I can do you know, during this time and something that I can continue to do after basketball because obviously basketball isn’t gonna be here for me forever. So I needed something that I could always provide on and you know, that’s what I created, like my own brand, my own clothing and stuff. It was fun to try to figure it all out in the process, you know? I mean, there’s a lot so Yes, I just started doing that ever since like 2020. And as I’m here today, like I can just see the growth and the developments of when I first started.”

MS: I know you love Dunks and I think you wore Bapestas at the draft, what are your favorite shoes you’re rocking off-court right now?

DH: “Those, oh nah I actually made those.”

MS: Woah you made those? Alright I need the details.

DH: “I love dunks and stuff like that. So I just portrayed that type of style with my own colors and logo on my clothing brand. Which I just put a logo together. You know, have someone from outside just put it all together for me. Which I only made like one pair just to see how it’d look and like they’re actually pretty dope. It’s just a multicolored shoe, something fly, something different, something that’ll pop out the outfit. So yeah, just know, threw those on on draft night.”

MS: That’s awesome, I love that! I know you need to bounce, appreciate you a ton for your time!

Newly hired WNBA reporter Mark Schindler writes a column on throughout the season and can be reached on Twitter at @MG_Schindler. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the WNBA or its clubs.