His name is Herman Henry, but everybody calls him "Skeeter." He plays basketball for Oklahoma University, the No. 1 band in the land. He comes from a Texas junior college that keeps supplying Oklahoma with players bearing names like Mookie and Smokey and Skeeter, names that usually belong on a sports page or to men who marry steel magnolias.
Skeeter is a 6-foot-7, human exclamation point. His legs are so skinny and knobby, they belong on a piano. Ol' Skeets has spring in those legs, though. He won a nationwide slam-dunk contest for junior college players, and demonstrated how when he ended Sunday's Big Eight Conference tournament with a super-duper alley-ooper, punctuating Oklahoma's 92-80 title-winner over Colorado.
Skeeter plays it fast and loose. He operates at the off-guard position and specializes in wildly aggressive play, which means he scores a lot of points, makes a lot of turnovers and collects a lot of fouls. And, there's one more thing Skeeter specializes in doing.
He specializes in getting booed.
For a political-science major, Skeeter Henry practices very little diplomacy. He mugs, he dances, he claps and he does some of that same crazy hand jive that Dennis (Worm) Rodman of the Detroit Pistons does, which alienates crowds away from home. It got him booed all weekend long at Kemper Arena, sometimes pushing the needle right off the Skeeter-Meter.
Skeeter "shoots" his fingers like pistols, then blows on them to cool them off, a move he says he borrowed from Bo Jackson. He's got other habits, too, like drooping his tongue, Michael Jordan style, or windmilling his arms, a la M. L. Carr. It's those "guns" of his, though, that leave some people longing for a day when Skeeter gets swatted.
Kansas Coach Roy Williams said he found Henry's finger-shooting activity to be "a putdown of the other team." To which Oklahoma Coach Billy Tubbs replied: "You notice Skeeter didn't shoot one daggone Jayhawk, didn't you? He only pointed them at our crowd."
The night before, when Skeeter left his fingers in his holster, Oklahoma struggled, moving Ol' Skeets to say: "I didn't shoot my guns much against Nebraska, and look what happened."
Henry also has this theory that Oklahoma players, for some reason, can't get away with the same behavior commonplace on other teams, high-fiving and hugging and other demonstrative gestures. What Skeeter conveniently forgets is that Oklahoma players are notorious for arfing like dogs at opponents, or using other in-your-face tactics as some of them did to Colorado's players on Saturday, paraphrasing lyrics from "Annie" and singing to Sunday's opponents: "Tomorrow. . . tomorrow. . . it's over, tomorrow."
Luckily for the Sooners, they excel at putting their moves where their mouths are. After their 13-point win over Nebraska, they manhandled nationally No. 2 ranked Kansas by 18 points, then dominated sentimental favorite Colorado pretty much from the opening tip.
Henry was his usual incorrigible self, making flashy moves, losing the ball with reckless dribbling, making important shots, losing his temper after a foul and drawing a technical. He continued to be, as Gib Twyman of the Kansas City Star described him, "the player you love most to hate on the team you love to hate most."
Still, he was popular enough to make the all-tournament team, despite scoring only 11 points in the championship game. Even Kansas' Williams acknowledged: "Skeeter is the emotional center of that team, their heart. Other guys feed off his enthusiasm. And, the sucker can flat-out play the game."
He can. In fact, a big factor in Oklahoma's bid for a first NCAA championship should be its backcourt backbone of Skeeter Henry and Smokey McCovery, the latest stars off the assembly line of Midland (Tex.) Junior College, which also cranked out NBA first-round pick Mookie Blaylock. He picked Oklahoma over four other schools, one of which was Kansas.
His "guns" might have gone over better if he was shooting for those daggone Jayhawks rather than against 'em.
Ol' Skeets says: "I'm not doing it to make fun of anybody. I'm just trying to get our fans on their feet. It just comes from the heart. If one of our guys makes a good play and I shoot my guns and that keeps us pumping and the next play is a good play and the next one and the next one, then that's what I'll do, keep shooting my guns."
Whoa, take a deep breath there, Skeeter.
"I'm just an emotional player. Coach always told me he'd rather have a guy that you have to tell to come down than a guy you have to tell to perk up."
He didn't mean to offend anybody with his fingers. Honest. He didn't even know they were loaded.