October 31, 2022 

Destanni Henderson can finally decompress

Young guard ready to take next steps for the Indiana Fever

INDIANAPOLIS – Very few people — including many in the WNBA, the Indiana Fever, and Destanni Henderson — thought that Henderson would be available with the 20th pick in the 2022 WNBA Draft. But when the Fever were on the clock in the later portion of the second round, the 2022 NCAA champion was still on the board, and they scooped her up.

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Nearly seven months later, the franchise can be nothing but thrilled with that outcome. Henderson played in all 36 games for the Fever this past season, and she even started five times. The steady point guard finished 25th in the league in three-point percentage among players with 50+ three-point attempts, per Basketball Reference, and finished 18th in assists per 36 minutes among all players who played in at least five games. Henderson could pass, shoot, and run an offense, a unique package of skills for a rookie to have.

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Now, she finally has an offseason. Between her family down in Florida, her business (Clothing by HP), and just a general desire for some time off that wasn’t there between college and the WNBA, Henderson decided to stay stateside to work on her game and be with family. “Visiting family for the most part. Just trying to spend time with them as much as possible,” Henderson said when asked about her offseason activities.

On top of some extra time to enjoy her personal life, Henderson is also working to add to her game. She closed the season strong, averaging 8.5 points and 4.0 assists per game over Indiana’s final six contests, including a 16 point, six assist eruption against Dallas. As the season advanced, so did Henderson’s game, which bodes well for her first offseason as a pro.

There are several areas where Henderson can add to her skillset, which is why she said “pretty much everything,” when asked what she is focusing on this offseason. Her turnover rate is too high. Some of her drives don’t get far enough into the paint. Every young player can improve on defense, and Henderson likely will.

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But the 23-year old did note one specific thing that she hopes to add to her abilities heading into year two. “For the most part, I feel like I’m a great shooter and I’m already set to shoot. So I’ve been working on like, already dribbling [then] pulling up into my shot from the three-point line,” Henderson said. Fittingly, she shared these details at Gainbridge Fieldhouse, where the Indiana Fever’s practice facilities are located. “I feel like that’s something that I’ve been really focusing on.”

Henderson was in Indianapolis for roughly a week in October. She hit the gym often, including practice sessions with teammate Lexie Hull, who was recently recognized for her silver medal in the FIBA U23 3×3 World Cup. The two attended multiple Indiana Pacers games together.

All-Rookie team member NaLyssa Smith is stateside as well, though she did not overlap with Hull and Henderson in Indianapolis. Smith and Kelsey Mitchell descended upon the Circle City this past week. But even beyond physically seeing each other, Henderson detailed that Fever rookies have kept in touch during the offseason — a necessity for a young team building chemistry.

Henderson, and other young Fever players, developing both as individuals and as a unit is crucial for the Indiana Fever franchise. The red and blue have been stuck in the WNBA basement for years now, and they are in a new era spearheaded by interim general manager Lin Dunn. If the new-look team, that features six players drafted in the 2022 WNBA draft, can’t develop and rise into the postseason ranks, the organization is doomed to a potential decade-long stay in the standings cellar.

That’s why it’s so important that Indiana youngsters grow and learn how to win. The Fever went 5-31 this past season and didn’t win a game after June 19. They formed some winning habits, but the team is now undergoing a coaching change. It may still take a season for those customs to fully form.

But individual growth can still take place, and with a young roster that features a half-dozen players that hardly had an offseason in 2022, this winter is crucial. It’s a time for players like Hull, Henderson, and others to get better and make the 2023 Indiana Fever stronger.

Henderson saw what she could do at the end of last season. When Mitchell and Danielle Robinson got hurt, the rookie was thrown into the starting five, and she played big minutes for the final month of the season even prior to those injuries. She figured out what she is capable of and where she can grow as last season ended, which helped set the stage for her offseason development.

“Just preparation,” Henderson said about what went into her late-season surge. “I feel like that’s what led to that moment. Things happen, people on the team got injured. So it was like ‘next woman up’. Somebody else had to step up to the plate. I feel like we did what we had to do to and carried the team.”

Now, with time off to spend with family and sharpen her skillset, Henderson can have more of those moments where she steps up to the plate for the Indiana Fever. “Moving forward, I feel like just continue to work on my game to be ready for this upcoming season,” she said.

As of now, with free agency and the draft still to come, Henderson projects to be the Fever’s backup point guard behind Robinson next season. But Robinson is on an expiring contract, per Her Hoop Stats, and Henderson is young and growing. It’s possible that the University of South Carolina product could move into the starting five at some point next season and have more moments where she is asked to “step up to the plate.”

If the Indiana Fever hope to return to being a playoff mainstay soon, Destanni Henderson improving this offseason is a necessity. So far, she has put in the work to make that happen. Next year, with heightened expectations and a new coach, she will have a chance to show what that time in the gym was all for.

Written by Tony East

Indiana Fever reporter based in Indianapolis. Enjoy a good statistical-based argument.

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