Who is Scoot Henderson? That’s the question that a lot of NBA general managers have been researching in recent months. The answer is complex, though, and depends on who you ask. The 19-year-old has lofty expectations for himself, something you’d expect from a projected top-three pick of the 2023 NBA Draft. 

“My main goal is to become one of the best point guards to ever play the game,” says the Marietta, GA native. That’s what keeps me continuing to work and never being stagnant.”

The 6-foot-2 guard has taken the unconventional route to the NBA. Despite being a high school student, Scoot made the bold decision to reclassify and graduate a year early, foregoing traditional high school experiences like homecoming and senior prom to pursue his dreams. For most high school players, college is seen as the usual stepping stone to the NBA, but for Henderson, the traditional path was not enough. He chose instead to join the G-League Ignite and skip college entirely, taking a calculated risk that he hopes will pay off in the long run. 

“I think I should be the No. 1 pick, just because of who I am,” says Henderson, who averaged 16.5 points, 6.8 assists, 5.3 rebounds and 1.1 steals per game for the Ignite this season. “And I’m going to continue to get better, and I’m going to continue to want to get better. I’m never going to want to be stagnant ever.”

While this decision was undoubtedly a sacrifice, it speaks to Henderson’s unwavering commitment to his dreams and his willingness to take risks to achieve them. In June 2022, Scoot Henderson signed a multi-year endorsement deal with PUMA. His star power continues to rise, as he joins the brand’s growing roster of talented young athletes — which includes the likes of LaMelo Ball, Breanna Stewart and Deandre Ayton. 

“The way me and Puma got connected was around All-Star weekend last year, where I was blessed to be a part of,” says the top-three projected pick for the 2023 NBA Draft. ‘And it was obviously different brands reaching out and stuff, but it was just something that stuck out to me about Puma, and that was how family orientated they were.”

Billboard recently caught up with Scoot Henderson to discuss his unique journey to the NBA, the sources of his motivation and his exciting partnership with PUMA.

So, Scoot, man, first things first. How are you feeling? Are you good?

Yeah, I’m good. I’m good. I’ve just been chilling, working on the side a little bit since I’ve been sitting out for the remainder of the season.

We’ll start there. I’m sure you’re in the gym a lot. So, when it’s time to work out and lock-in at the gym, what album or playlist are you throwing on?

Yeah, most of the time it’s just some Lil Baby, but recently I’ve been reading books and stuff, and I’ve been looking for songs to get me in a good mood. So, I’ve been listening to a lot of older songs. I’ve always had an old soul, but recently I’ve just been listening to a lot of older songs, because they just make me happy.

Being a young star yourself, who is one artist in the hip-hop world that you would say is the Scoot Henderson of the hip-hop game?

I think it’ll be Lil Baby. Just how he started off strong and he’s continuing to be great. So, I think he’s continued to work and every time he gets better. I think that’s the equivalent.

I heard that you recently hooped with 21 Savage, and Lil Baby followed you on Instagram. Can you talk about the relationship you have with both of those guys and how you linked up with them?

Honestly, I don’t really have any crazy relationship with either of them — but Lil Baby, that shocked me when he followed me. He texted me, and just gave me a few words of encouragement. That’s probably our only text message in our phone, and he probably texted me one time after that. I think it’s just real mutual. Our people know each other, but our schedules clash a lot. So, whenever we are at the same place, we try our hardest to get a picture.

And then 21 Savage, that was my first time meeting him. Me and my family, we were always huge fans of 21, ever since he started really. Me and my sister and my other siblings, we were all big into 21. He just so happened to be working out at Georgia Tech, when we had a game at College Park. I just wanted to go get some shots up before the game the next day. So, we saw them working out on the other side, so I just asked for a picture.

What were those words of encouragement that Baby gave you when you guys spoke for that brief time period?

It was really just to continue what I’m doing, and he was just saying, “stay focused, keep going up.” And those were his words. CBFW, and that means “Can’t Be Messed With.” It’s something that he has going on. I can’t really say the word, the F word.

What are some of the goals and expectations you have for yourself and for your career? Give me some of those expectations you have for yourself.

I think my main goals are to continue to do what I’m doing really, and just continue to get better. My main goal is to become one of the best point guards to ever play the game. That’s my main goal, and what keeps me continuing to work and never being stagnant. Always just getting better.

And then obviously making a couple all-star appearances. Whatever God blessed me with, that’s how I’m going on about it.

Your name is very hot in the NBA Draft rooms right now. You’ve been compared to players such as prime Derrick Rose, John Wall, Russell Westbrook, etc. Do you see any similarities in your game to any of those three, and does that put any pressure on you to try to live up to those expectations?

I don’t want to be compared to anybody or anything like that. So, it’s really just getting better every day, stuff like that. I don’t want to be compared. So, I just continue what I’m doing, and that’s just working out man.

And that’s how you get better. And like I said, I don’t want to be compared to anybody, so I just keep myself from all those comparisons to just continue to be who I am as a person as well.

And speaking of pressure, you played a nationally televised game on ESPN with pretty much every NBA scout onsite. You had Chris Paul and Devin Booker in attendance. Can you just speak about that moment and what you wanted to prove to the world about who Scoot Henderson really is?

I think I’ve always been overlooked in my life, and always being the underdog in a lot of situations. So, I think that was just my time to make a stand for myself and show people what I’ve been working on for years now. And I just came in that game with a lot of confidence, man. And that’s how I come into every game. That’s how I go into every workout. Working out, it just boosts that.

I came in with an edge on my shoulder to really not prove anything because I don’t have anything to prove to nobody, but just to let people know who I am. And me and my dad, we talked about it, about just how things used to be, but now like that game, how televised it was and CP being there, A’ja Wilson, it just put me on that stage that I always wanted to be on.

NextPlay360. I know that name resonates with you a lot. What does that facility mean to you, and more importantly, how do you feel that’s helped you develop into the player that you are today?

Yeah, that I think that NextPlay, it’s almost like my life man. The last five years it has just been my life. And just me going there, getting there every day, all day, being my second home — it means a lot to me, and it means a lot to the community as well. We’re still building right now, we just got it remodeled, the court was redone and all of that stuff. So, we’re still making upgrades, and really just trying to make it a great community center for whoever’s in the community, and even outsiders that need to come in and get a good session of training and maintenance. And it’s also just like I said, a community thing where it’s also for kids and STEM and all of that.

So, I think it’s not just a gym, I think it has more things than the regular gym would. How we are to the kids that’s coming in, with just the workouts and just being around people, man, that really helps in a kids’ life because I was in a loving environment that brought me in and embraced me. So, that’s just something that I’m used to. I’ve always wanted to give back, and I think the gym is a perfect way to do it.

You signed a multi-year endorsement deal with PUMA. Talk about your decision to sign with Puma — and has there been talks of you coming out with your own shoe?

The way me and PUMA got connected was around All-Star weekend last year, where I was blessed to be a part of – and it was obviously different brands reaching out and stuff, but it was just something that stuck out to me about PUMA, and that was how family orientated they were. And knowing me, how I’m a big family person, that I always want my family to be included in things, a lot of other brands, they didn’t really show that to me, just being around it.

But man, PUMA has been such a big help to not just me, but my whole family, my community, and they’re upcoming, and I think we kind of matched out. So, PUMA is also getting back into the mix of being, obviously they are one of the top brands right now, but I think I could just really help in a huge way.

And the talk of the shoe, we’re going to have something hopefully in the next few years. We’re still talking about stuff like that, how we could impact the youth and then the culture. So, we might have something coming in the next few years.

I know you’ve worn a lot of different PUMAs this year. Which is your favorite one to rock at the moment, on court or off the court?

I think my favorite on courts right now is probably the Stewie 1’s. I like low tops — I’m a low top person — so the Stewie 1’s are really tough, and how detailed they are, man. If you really look at the shoe, you can see all the details on it. You can see the little scar that she had on her back of her heel or whatever. Just all those little details, they really stood out to me. And a lot of good, cool colorways too.

Then I also like the TRC Blazers. They’re kind of like mid tops, but I’m a huge fan of those. They got a lot of colorways that Puma sends, and I’m loving them right now.

I know you just recently participated in the NBA Rising Stars game and played last year as well. Were you able to connect with any of the other stars that were there that weekend?

I didn’t really talk to anybody there. I talked to a lot of the young stars that were there, and a lot of my people were in the same place at the same time. But I recently talked to Steph Curry like January, late January, and that was a blessing, man, just him calling my phone. And it kind of surprised me almost.

But it was a dope experience to have Steph Curry calling my phone and give me some words of encouragement. Me and my little sister actually, giving us some words of encouragement, just telling us to continue to work and continue doing what I’m doing, and it doesn’t get easier.

From the outside looking in, fashion seems to be a big part of who you are as a person. Where would you say that you got your style from, and who inspires you in the fashion world?

I think it was when I was younger. I’ve seen all of the music videos and stuff like that — just seeing those guys have fun, do whatever they want to do. So, just being a part of that culture, it is something that inspired me be a lot.

And I had nobody specifically, but just watching the basketball players and stuff like that — Russell Westbrook, how different he was and how confident he was in his wear. I think that’s really the main thing that inspired me. I just continue to have fun with it. I don’t know if it’s just something that I grew interest for in the last couple of years. Not just dressing up, but just having something on, having good style and a good taste in clothes, and it’s just something that I could also speak for myself, how it kind of represents my game.

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