LOUISVILLE, Ky. (FOX 56) – The Sweet 16 has arrived in Kentucky with a different feel to it this year. The first South Region championship in Louisville since 2019 tips off on Friday night, with no teams from the Bluegrass State making it to this round or region. Despite teams coming from the west coast and the northeast, Kentucky ties still lie within the Yum! Center this week.
Princeton head coach Mitch Henderson is a grew up in Vincennes, Indiana. His father was an electrical contractor and got a job in Lexington, Kentucky during Henderson’s middle school years.
Henderson attended Tates Creek Middle School and would join Kevin Willard, G.G. Smith, and Darrin Horn in the Commodores hoops community. All four of these young hoopers ended up becoming Division I head basketball coaches down the line.
Willard coaches at Maryland, who made the Round of 32 this year. His father Ralph was on Rick Pitino’s coaching staff. Smith, the son of Tubby Smith, was the head coach at High Point this past season. Horn led Northern Kentucky to the NCAA Tournament once again this March.
“I went to Rick Pitino’s basketball camp when I was a freshman and sophomore,” Henderson shared with FOX 56 Sports during his practice day press conference. “He would play one-on-one with all the campers and talk so much trash. He was rally good he was probably in his late 30s at the time? He had to score three points and all you had to do was stop him and score once. Then you got a shirt that says ‘I beat Rick Pitino one-on-one’. I got one of those shirts.”
Henderson went on to be recruited to Princeton to play his collegiate basketball, and now is looking to lead the Tigers to the Elite Eight as they take on Creighton late Friday night.
“My junior high basketball team was me, Kevin Willard, and G.G. Smith, who were all Division I coaches, at Tates Creek Junior High, how about that?” Henderson said in a reflective tone.
Princeton takes on Creighton at the KFC Yum! Center following the Alabama-San Diego State matchup.