By JAY COHEN AP Sports Writer
Growing up in Washington, Michael Henn fell in love with basketball — the family sport.
That love took him to UC Davis, California Baptist, Portland, Denver and, finally, Penn State. It kept him going through bone spurs, and it carried him all the way back to the NCAA Tournament.
At the very end of his circuitous college career, Henn returns to March Madness when 10th-seeded Penn State takes on Texas A&M on Thursday. The 6-foot-8 forward also played in the 2017 NCAA Tournament as a true freshman with UC Davis.
“It’s so rewarding and it’s just joyous to be in the moment and be able to see your name called again,” Henn said. “Going back to my freshman year, that was six years ago now, and so for it all to come full circle is really a beautiful thing.”
After that first season at Davis, Henn decided to transfer to Cal Baptist because of what he described as a difference of opinion with the school’s coaching staff. Following a redshirt year, he averaged 6.4 points and 4.1 rebounds in 30 games with the Lancers.
He missed the 2019-20 season because of lingering issues with bone spurs in his ankle. It took at least two surgeries before the injury was resolved, but Henn said he never considered walking away from hoops.
“It was cool to have breaks in different parts of my college career because it gave me a lot of perspective,” he said. “I was coming back from injury, I was working, I was doing things that your normal college student would do, and so to be able to have that perspective and come back into this, I have a great appreciation for just being able to play every day.”
Henn graduated from Cal Baptist with a bachelor’s degree in entrepreneurship and a minor in real estate. He was playing for the University of Portland when the school fired coach Terry Porter in February 2021, and the new staff “got rid of our whole team,” Henn said.
After spending last season at Denver, Henn planned to play professionally, but he had another year of eligibility left because of the pandemic. He put his name in the transfer portal and ended up at Penn State.
The Nittany Lions (22-13) had a pair of freshmen big men in Kebba Njie and Demetrius Lilley, and coach Micah Shrewsberry was looking for more experience.
“He’s an older guy that’s tough. Has some toughness to him,” Shrewsberry said of Henn. “He’s going to compete every single time.”
Henn has played in 27 games this season, averaging 2.6 points and almost nine minutes. He is 13 for 30 from 3-point range, fitting right in on a team that likes to take aim from deep. He scored a season-high 11 points in 29 minutes in an 80-60 loss at Purdue on Feb. 1.
Basketball is practically a member of Henn’s family. His father, David, and his uncle, Matt, played semi-pro ball and served as his first coaches. His great uncle, Jerry Vermillion, is the career leading rebounder at Gonzaga, and another great uncle, Greg Vermillion, played at Seattle University.
“I mean, my whole family’s involved. … Just had great guidance that has led me all the way to this point,” Henn said.
Henn also has a master’s degree in real estate from Denver, and he said he is close to finishing his MBA from Portland. He is working on a graduate certificate from Penn State in business sustainability strategy.
Long-term, Henn said he wants to build a real estate portfolio and start some of his own businesses. But first up, he is hoping for a long NCAA Tournament run with Penn State.
When Henn played in the tourney in 2017, UC Davis beat N.C. Central 67-63 in their First Four game in Dayton, Ohio, and then lost 100-62 to top-seeded Kansas.
“It’s going to go by even faster as we go forward, and so you just got to stay in the moment and enjoy it,” Henn said.