Every team in Section 1 could use an effective, oft-hustling junkyard dog. There's no argument about that.
In most cases, a certified Mr. Hustle is as critical to a winning formula as the prolific scoring go-to guy, the 3-point specialist, and the lockdown defender.
For Woodlands, junior transfer Kaellen Henderson now appears tailor-cut for the garbage man role. Crashing the boards with sustained relentlessness, pursuig 50-50 balls, diving on the deck for a loose rock, and using his length to block and manipulate shots, Henderson aims to offer immediate results for the Falcons.
"I have to prove myself, because I just transferred from Stepinac and everything is still new to me," said Henderson, who played alongside two elite scoring threats in Ky Guerra and hotly-pursued high major target Jordan Tucker last year.
"I've realized the coaches need me to be reliable with my shooting, my ability to handle the ball and make key decisions, and keep a high basketball IQ. These are important factors for me. I'm looking to be a beast when driving to the basket and trying to create my own shot."
Using his physicality first and foremost, Henderson has worked diligently at sharpening up his 12-15 footer. He's also made strides to increase his interior passing and create plays in the paint.
"Kaellen may not be a big scorer but his defensive effort, his aggression, his focus when boxing out and snaring key rebounds, it is all critical for a team that is championship driven," said Aldo Redendo, NY Pride founder and head coach/trainer.
Redendo coached Henderson throughout the summer, pushing his evolution as a fundamentally sound forward who can make an impact as a two-way player.
"He's a hard worker and he's still growing as a long 6-foot-4 forward," Redendo said. "He's one of those high-motor guys who does all the dirty work. Other areas of his game have improved drastically over the last four months. The little things, the important things that win games, those are what Kaellen brings to the court. He really embraces that garbage man role with a passion."
Woodlands is currently in rebuilding mode. The Falcons graduated a two-time All-State guard in 6-foot-3 Jamil Gambari. The loss of several key pieces has forced Bob Murphy's team to re-load.
If his improvement continues, Henderson has the chance to be a scrapper similar to former interior banger Justin Tapper. Tapper starred alongside Mike DeMello and Tucker (then a freshman) at White Plains High School. DeMello, a prolific scoring point guard now at Pace University, trained under Redendo leading into his senior year with the Tigers.
"Coach Aldo really brought my confidence up a lot," Henderson said. "He's helped me get good NCAA looks from schools such as SUNY New Paltz and schools in that league. My goal would be to play college basketball. Right now though, I'm only focused on Woodlands and proving myself. We want to win a championship this year, that is where the standard is set."