Seward County Community College basketball player Sam Henderson excels on the court and in the classroom — a skill set that earned the student athlete the All Kansas Academic Team award. Phi Theta Kappa, the International honor society for two-year colleges, sponsors the scholastic recognition, naming students from across the state for the cohort.
“This is the first time we’ve had a basketball player collect the award,” said SCCC biology instructor Ty Hughbanks, who also serves as sponsor for SCCC’s chapter of Phi Theta Kappa. “It’s pretty exciting to see someone achieving in both arenas.”
That’s business as usual for Henderson, however.
“My mom being a teacher, and my dad a college track coach, doing well in the classroom is the first priority for my entire family,” he said. “When I was little, I did every sport, I ran track throughout middle school, and in high school I focused on basketball and baseball. Whatever I did, school was the first priority. I always grew up with the expectation that if you don’t do well in class, you don’t play.”
To meet the challenge, Henderson ranks time management and organization as his top tools for success.
“I’m big on those two things — making sure you have a schedule and a routine you can go by, and being able to adapt when adversity hits,” he said. “I saw it with my dad and how he still made a lot of time for us even though he had to recruit, and do stuff with his teams. My mom, too — how she would work and still take care of me and my younger brother.”
SCCC Head Men’s Basketball Coach Jason Sautter says Henderson is doing a great job of following his parents’ examples.
“Sam has always been a young man that prioritizes his time extremely well. Not only does he play basketball but he manages a full-time course load along with a work study job,” the coach said. “Everything he has received from Seward County he has earned through his desire and work ethic.”
Those deeply ingrained habits were put to the test in 2020.
“When they sent us home during the pandemic, that was very tough,” Henderson said. “Trying to focus on school when I’m more of an ‘in person’ learner, that was pretty difficult for me.”
Though he hopes to channel his passion for athletics into a coaching career, Henderson has chosen to take a rigorous academic schedule of classes.
“I am majoring in business marketing and management — I really wanted to try and see the business side of things,” he said. This semester that meant an accounting class, which required extra study time to memorize formulas and double-check his work.
“When it gets crazy, I focus on my grades first,” he said. “I might not go to the gym outside of practice. The friends I keep close understand what I am doing and what I’m trying to accomplish and I want the same for them.”
At SCCC, Henderson said, students have access to great resources and instructors who care.
“Ty Hughbanks has been a huge help to me, not just in the classroom, but as a mentor,” he said. “Dr. Lori Muntz in English — she is a great help. My public speaking instructor Sue Sprenkle had such great activities that helped me get over the feeling that I don’t want to talk in front of people. There are a lot of great instructors here at Seward. I’ve been blessed.”In the admissions office, where Henderson puts in student work-study hours, Candice Olson “has gone above and beyond for me. It’s like a family here,” he said.
Sautter said Henderson pulls his share of the weight as well.
“He always makes time to help his teammates both on and off the court. Seward County and this community have been blessed to have such a young man,” he said.
Through it all — the unexpected disruption of the athletic schedule, the frequent COVID testing, social distancing and mask mandates — Henderson has opted to view COVID-19 and all its disruptions as an opportunity for growth.
“In terms of basketball, I didn’t lose a year of eligibility, so I’ve been focusing on getting into the gym at extra times, going to shoot by myself, improving as a player,” he said.
With multiple options for transfer to a four-year university, Henderson is still deliberating about his next step.
“I guess I’m just being flexible like we have through the pandemic,” he said. “You have to be and do a lot more things outside what seems normal.” Wherever he ends up, Henderson said he’ll continue the pursuit of excellence in two sectors.
“ I use my love for basketball to also work with my passion to learn new things, and access as many resources as I can,” he said. “It’s all about balance.”