Former Lancer throws down some thunder
Henry French had a hard time reaching the basketball rim until he was 16. Now the rim trembles at the approach of the 6-foot-3-inch leaper.
A former College of Lake County basketball player who transferred to Trinity International in 2015, French put on a show at the national level by winning the 2017 NABC-NAIA Slam Dunk Contest on March 19 in Kansas City.
French prefers powerful, thundering windmills dunks, and although his first two attempts fizzled, he caught fire just in time.
“I try to make sure my dunks can be heard as well as they can be seen,” he told the Lake County Gazette.
French, who played for the Lancers in 2014-15 and earned All-Skyway Conference honors, said the dunk contest competitors got up at 5:30 a.m. to go to the gym. Then it was interviews with media for a few hours.
When the contest started, each of the four contestants was allowed two completed dunks in the first round. But French said his nerves got the best of him, he "jumped weird" and couldn't connect on a lob off the side of the backboard from teammate Grant Corsi. He missed on his second try as well.
So French ended up lobbing the ball to himself, jumping over the announcer for a windmill dunk.
Next, he tried to throw the ball over the backboard, let it bounce in front of the rim and grab it for a double-clutch reverse jam, but he wasn't able to get the lob down correctly. He finally took the lob out of the sequence.
In the final round, after his first two dunk attempts went awry, French went to midcourt, lobbed the ball over his head and dunked it from where it bounced.
“The crowd loved it and so did the judges," he said. "I got a perfect 50 on that."
Not even a decade ago, dunking was a new concept for French, who said he was 5 foot 2 inches tall as freshman in high school before hitting a growth spurt hit.
That height disadvantage kept him away from basketball at first.
“In Chicago, in order to get on the basketball courts, you have to be either really good or really tall," French said. "At that time, I was neither."
So he played baseball until he moved to Zion, where his new friends were more into basketball. That, plus the emotion of the sport, drew him in.