Sickles' Henson an All-American on and off the court
TAMPA - The stats are staggering. From the moment she set foot at Sickles High School, Amber Henson has put up some impressive, actually, gaudy numbers. There's the matter of her 4.4 GPA, which sort of pales in comparison to her 1220 (math/reading), 1880 (combined) SAT score. Oh, and in between posting those numbers, Henson found time to lead Hillsborough County last season with a scoring average of 22.1 points per game. "She really commits to her classroom work just like she does basketball," said Henson's mother, Annette. "She's always kept a really good balance."The senior All-American center's educational focus is just as intense as her basketball focus, which has resulted in helping the Gryphons girls basketball team reach new heights. This season, Henson wants to push herself academically and athletically in an effort to achieve new goals. "I try to be as competitive in the classroom as I am on the court," Henson said. "Sometimes I catch myself slipping up, but then I just think about my future and how at Duke it's going to be a real strenuous academic schedule." Henson, a two-time Parade All-American, will play for the Blue Devils, while at the same time preparing for her future as a doctor. "I don't think it's a matter of whether she will become a doctor or not, it's a matter of deciding which specialty she wants to do," Annette Henson said. Recently, Henson shadowed a dermatologist to get a feel for life as a doctor. She's thinking about doing something in the orthopedic field, given all the experience she has had with orthopedic surgeons. After helping the USA women's team win a bronze medal at the inaugural Youth Olympic Games in Singapore last summer, Henson had arthroscopic knee surgery to basically clean up some scar tissue. The surgery forced her to miss the start of the regular season, but she was cleared to play this week and will join her teammates at the Craig Keeler Memorial Thanksgiving Tournament Friday and Saturday at Tampa Catholic. Henson's penchant for learning began at an early age when she used to read the dictionary. "I would just sit in bed and read it," Henson said. "I would actually just read it, page by page." That thirst for knowledge spilled over onto the basketball court. Sickles girls basketball coach Mark Key considers Henson an extra coach on the court. "She knows the game so well," Key said. "And she trains harder than anybody I've ever seen. Her desire to play at a high level helped her get these opportunities. She's going to play big-time Division I basketball because she put the work in. "She's a kid that is designed to go play college basketball because she's got the work ethic." It's a work ethic she has mimicked from her older brother John, a starting forward for the North Carolina Tar Heels. The two have always been close, with Amber never straying far from her brother's side. "As a baby, John had a blanket, but Amber didn't," Annette Henson said. "As long as she had her big brother around, she was cool. He's always been her security blanket. "Even now, when she has things that are bothering her, she talks to him. He's going to get the real story from her." John Henson certainly got an earful following the Gryphons' region final loss to Boca Ciega last season. A win away from the state final four in Lakeland, Amber Henson, instead, sat in the stands of the Lakeland Center watching the Sickles boys basketball team play in the state tournament. "I don't remember half the (boys) game because I kept thinking about our game against Boca Ciega and what I could have done differently," she said. "That was a tough loss. I took it really hard, the team took it really hard. We were so close. "Hopefully we get there this year."