Archive for Sunday, February 7, 2016

Maranatha’s Henderson earns a full-ride

February 7, 2016

Xavier Henderson had to turn away. As his mother, Pamela, lay in a hospital bed, fresh off an eight-hour surgery to clip a pair of aneurysms in her brain, she couldn’t remember who her son was. The pain was too much for Henderson to bare, and he broke down in tears.

He still remembers the emotions of that moment and the months-long journey that would follow. As his mother recovered and continued to gain strength, the seasons changed and the weather grew colder. Holidays came and went.

And as the day after Christmas arrived, a very special delivery showed up at the Henderson residence — one that would provide a tremendous amount of comfort to a family that had been through so much.

It was a letter explaining that Henderson, a senior at Maranatha Christian Academy, had not only been accepted to Morehouse College in Atlanta, but that he would be the recipient of a prestigious full-ride, four-year scholarship. The decision was made based on his grade point average, ACT score, community service and an essay.

“When I first got it, I opened it, and I was just in disbelief,” Henderson said. “I showed my mom, and it was full-tuition scholarship for four years. We both were excited, starting crying and just praising the Lord. It’s crazy. It’s just a blessing.

“It’s a great burden off my parents’ shoulders. They’ve been paying for Maranatha since sixth grade, and it’s been a sacrifice. I feel like this is my ‘Thank you’ to them, and it just takes some pressure off them.”

Pamela’s surgery was the result of a car crash in May in which her head was slammed against the steering wheel. A CAT scan revealed the aneurysm, which prompted the surgery in July. But what was supposed to be a three-hour procedure turned into an eight-hour ordeal when a second aneurysm was discovered.

Since the surgery, the road back to normalcy hasn’t always been easy.

“It’s been a struggle to say the least,” Henderson said. “She has her good and bad days. Sometimes it takes her a while to remember things. … She continues to gain strength by the grace of God. It’s definitely been a struggle, but there’s a beautiful ending to this journey.”

As the events of Xavier’s turbulent summer unfolded, he leaned on his basketball teammates at Maranatha for emotional support. First-year coach Travis Thompson had just begun his tenure with the school, but the gravity of the situation required him to deal with hardship before the Eagles had even played a game under his tutelage.

“There’s a lot of beauty in the struggle,” Thompson said. “We were hit with adversity right off the bat, so it was neat to kind of see the guys come together as one. It was neat to see them rally around Xavier and his family, and I was very, very thankful to be a part of that.”

Sharing that experience helped the team develop a stronger sense of camaraderie, and as the basketball season began, Xavier and the rest of the Eagles felt as though they were laying the foundation for Thompson’s program.

This season has had its share of ups and downs, but what’s paramountly important to Thompson is the lessons his players are learning along the way. One aspect that aids in the process is having an experienced leader like Henderson on the floor. Thompson calls him “one of the most coachable and respectful kids I’ve been around.”

Henderson’s basketball acumen is obvious. He’s the team’s leading scorer and assist man. But what he also brings, according to Thompson, is a high level of determination and a positive attitude that will help establish what the program will stand for in the future.

“It’s great to see him in practice talking to his teammates and encouraging them,” Thompson said. “We’re going to miss him when he’s gone.”

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