PROFILE:  Pierria Henry

The Dogfight in Me

by Tom Whitestone

Pierria Henry set a freshman record last year with 72 steals.  At Atlantic 10 Media Day, head coach Alan Major likened his style of play to Baltimore Ravens safety Ed Reed.  He was named to the 2012-13 Atlantic 10 preseason all-Defensive team.

Henry enjoys his defense, yes -- and has the toughness and instincts it requires.  But for the 49ers sophomore point guard, it's about so much more.

It's about fight.  It's about pride.  And it's about sacrifice.

"I feel as if I've got to give everything my last, give it my all," Henry said as he prepares for his second season.  "That's one thing that my mother's always taught me just by showing me.  Her working two jobs is phenomenal to me.  She couldn't be around at times and couldn't cook those dinners at times.  Knowing the sacrifice she made for me -- I just want to do the same for her."

So he plays basketball - with an energy that is two parts angst, one part freedom and all parts drive.

"That dogfight I have in me," Henry said.   "Everything I've been through in life and everywhere that I'm trying to get to and see.  I feel that basketball can take me to where I want to get.  I thank god for keeping me healthy and giving me this opportunity and I want to make the best of it."

Henry starred in both football and basketball at South Charleston High School.  He scored over 1300 career points to rank in the Black Eagles all-time top five.  He was the 2011 Class AAA West Virginia Player of the Year runner-up and a two-time all-state choice.  He was also a first team all-stater in football while playing wide receiver, defensive back and as a kick returner.  He led the Black Eagles to two state titles - earning Championship game MVP honors as a junior and breaking Randy Moss' record for the longest touchdown reception in a championship game.

Still, he feels he has plenty to prove.

"I've always heard that I'm too little, I'm not fast enough, I don't have the basketball IQ," Henry added.  "It's all motivation to me.  I just have to go out and prove myself because I know what I can do. I know what I'm capable of and can't nobody stop me but myself."

And he certainly doesn't plan on doing that.

As a freshman, Henry handled the 49ers starting point guard duties from day one - making 28 starts in 28 games played while missing two games with injury.   Only one player in school history has started at point guard for four seasons: all-time assist leader Keith Williams.  Henry has a chance to join him.  He was named to the A-10's all-Rookie team and averaged 7.2 points, 3.6 rebounds and passed out 3.4 assists while ranking second in the A-10 with those 2.6 steals per game.

He plays with a fervor that comes from his inherent motivation.  His goal is to channel that fervor and to use it for its many benefits but, at all times, to be in control of it.

 "Watching film," Henry said, when describing his off-season.  "Just watching myself play.  I learned a lot just by doing that.  I'm more patient.  I'm more calm but I still have that blood in my eyes.  The coaching staff has done a great job teaching me discipline out there on the court.  My uncle has always told me 'make good choices.'  That's what I learned from watching myself.  I haven't always made the best decision on the court.  Coach has broken it down to me about getting the team the best shot.   I'm the point guard - the offense starts through me - and I want to make sure the team gets the best shot throughout the entire game."

So Henry plans to make better choices on the court.  To be more patient.  But don't be fooled:  he still has that blood in his eyes.

"Every play you can't get back but you can always move on and learn from that mistake," Henry said.  "My high school coach always told me 'play every second, every minute, every game like it's your last.'  Like I said it's that dogfight.  When I see that loose ball rolling on the ground, I feel as if nobody in this gym or in this world will outhustle me to get to it."

For Henry - it's about fight.  It's about pride.  And, when it comes right down to it, perhaps, above all, it's about sacrifice.