Where Are They Now: Men’s basketball’s Steve Henson

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Photo of Steve Henson from the 1988 Royal Purple yearbook. (Sarah Unruh | Collegian Media Group)

Editor’s Note: A previous version of the article stated that Henson was from Junction City, Kansas. Henson was raised in McPherson, Kansas, but was born in Junction City. The Collegian apologizes for this error.

Steve Henson was a point guard from McPherson, Kansas, that played for Kansas State men’s basketball from 1986 to 1990. Now the head coach of the University of Texas at San Antonio, Henson has enjoyed a wild ride since leaving the Flint Hills.

Through four years and 127 games with the Wildcats, Henson averaged 13 points, 4.6 assists and 1.5 steals. Henson was a prolific scorer at the point guard position and sits at No. 7 on the leaderboard for points in his career with 1,655.

The most impressive part of Henson’s game, however, was his ability to pass the ball. Henson sits alone at No. 1 for both assists in a career and in a season. Henson tallied 582 assists in his career, with 186 of those coming from the 1987-88 season. Additionally, he sits at No. 4 in steals in his career with 190 and No. 7 in steals in a season with 62.

Henson grew up in Junction City — just 20 minutes from K-State’s campus — and was a fan of the Wildcats as most of his family lived in the area of Manhattan. When it came time to make a decision on college, Henson had two things in mind: basketball and track.

“I wanted to go somewhere where I could play basketball and run track,” Henson said. “Coach [Lon] Kruger had played basketball and baseball at K-State, so I knew he would understand me doing that and that he would kind of understand the demands that came along with me making that decision.”

While basketball was the sport that Henson made a name for himself in, his dream was to be an Olympic decathlete.

“My dream was to play basketball for four years and run track for three and redshirt one year and eventually just run track for a year,” Henson said. “I had aspirations of being an Olympic decathlete. Ironically though, while I was at K-State, I had a teammate named Steve Fritz who did what I did and played both basketball and ran track with me, and basically lived my dream out for me … [he] became an Olympic decathlete and actually set the K-State school record for points in a decathlon.”

Henson’s teams had plenty of great games and seasons under legendary head coach Lon Kruger. With those great seasons came great memories for both Henson and his teammates. One of those memories is a game that lives in every Wildcat’s heart.

Early in the 1987-88 season, top-ranked Purdue welcomed K-State to West Lafayette, Indiana, and beat the Wildcats squarely, 101-72. In the 1988 NCAA tournament, the two teams found themselves matched-up in the Sweet 16 — Purdue as a one-seed and K-State as a four-seed.

“They were the best team in the NCAA, coming in as the No. 1 seed. We played them around Christmas time and they beat us pretty easily,” Henson said. “But we got another shot at them in the NCAA tournament and we beat them to go to the Elite 8.”

Henson provided 12 assists in the contest to pair with teammate Mitch Richmond’s 27 points.

At K-State, Henson became great friends with his teammates, but also made a strong connection with coach Kruger.

“It was just amazing how consistent he was,” Henson said, “He was just an unbelievable leader and mentor. People asked what made him special, and it was his ability to connect with players and the security around him. He was just amazing to be around every day. I wanted to be a great point guard, and he helped me do that.”

As Henson’s playing days came to an end for K-State, he had a new adventure open up to him. A career in the big leagues: the NBA.

“So it became apparent that my basketball career was a little better than my track career, so once I graduated, I had a little change of plans,” Henson said. “I was drafted in the second round to the Milwaukee Bucks. I played nine years professionally, two of those with the Milwaukee Bucks, then a year with the Atlanta Hawks, one year in Charlotte, then a year with the Portland Trailblazers. I even had a few years in the CBA, then two years with the Detroit Pistons. So I bounced around all over the place and never really stuck.”

Nowadays, Henson is still pursuing basketball, but in the role of a coach. Henson is the head coach of the University of Texas at San Antonio men’s basketball team.

“We play in the Conference-USA, which is tough, but here in probably two years, moving into the American Athletic Conference with Wichita State, so it is only going to get tougher, but we’re looking forward to the challenge,” Henson said.

Lastly, Henson said that he loves K-State and that Manhattan is a special place that he holds near his heart.

“The experiences I had were terrific,” Henson said. “I got the opportunity to play basketball and run track for four years. I got the privilege of meeting my wife there. The experience there was everything that I hoped it would be. It was truly a great four years.”

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