Among the precious few familiar faces in the Tiger basketball program this season is that of senior center Pierre Henderson-Niles. But in this year of transition, Henderson-Niles’s face is about all that’s familiar about him. Over the course of last summer, the former star at Ridgeway High School devoted himself to an exercise regimen and diet that shed more than 35 pounds from a frame that would have fit nicely on the Tiger football team’s offensive line. Henderson-Niles is now playing at merely 270 pounds . . . and loving it.
“I feel great,” he says. “This is the best shape I’ve been in since high school. It’s easier to run down the court. And if I come out, it’s just for a minute or two, and I want to get back in.”
Henderson-Niles has a critical role this season, teaming with junior Will Coleman to make up what amounts to a two-man post presence for the Tigers. Playing only eight minutes a game — his average over his first three seasons — was simply not going to cut it. Through five games this year, Henderson-Niles is averaging 19 minutes a game. His presence on the glass has been inconsistent, though. After pulling down eight rebounds against Tennessee Tech on November 20th, Henderson-Niles grabbed but one against Central Arkansas. He again had eight in the Tigers’ last outing, a win over Oakland Monday night.
With a steadier and longer presence on the floor, consistency should come, especially for a player who still brings as much heft as anyone wearing a Memphis uniform. “I was quick when I was heavy,” says Henderson-Niles. “But not as quick as I am now. I can even jump higher.”
Whether or not it was intentional, Henderson-Niles has even slimmed down aesthetically, changing his uniform number from 4 to 1. Fighting weight is a battle millions know every day, and they’ll appreciate Henderson-Niles’s take on the biggest challenge. “It’s hard to keep it off,” he admits.