CHAMPAIGN – At Florida and Illinois, Steve Henson often worked out with Lon Kruger's teams to stay in shape for professional basketball.
He's back again, only this time he'll get paid for his sweat.
Henson today was hired by Kruger as an assistant coach. The former Kansas State star replaces Mike Shepherd, who took a job with Tulsa's women's basketball program last month.
"Having played so recently, Steve still can get in there and mix it up with the guys," Kruger said. "He has a real good feel for the game and an understanding of how to convey that feeling to the players."
The Henson-Kruger relationship dates to 1987, when player and coach turned Kansas State into a NCAA tournament regular. When Kruger took over at Florida, Henson moved to Gainesville. When Kruger moved to Illinois, Henson also relocated.
He practiced with the Illini during the NBA lockout.
"There's always been easy access for workouts," Kruger said. "He's one of the hardest-working players I've ever known."
The 31-year-old Henson, who is expected in town today, will help coach UI guards, Kruger said. He will wait until the Illini return from their Australia trip – they leave today – to begin working with the players.
Henson's wife, Cindy, is expecting the couple's second child later this month.
"There are more important things than rushing off to Australia," Kruger said.
Henson was drafted by the NBA's Milwaukee Bucks in the second round in 1990. He played two seasons with the Bucks before making stops in Atlanta, Portland and Detroit.
Henson was playing professionally in Italy when Kruger called.
"I am delighted to have the opportunity to join Coach Kruger and the staff at Illinois," Henson said. "It is always difficult to call an end to your playing career, but I'm very excited to be entering the coaching profession."
Henson and Kruger are the only Kansas State players to win the Porky Morgan Most Inspirational Player award three times.
Henson is the only player in school history to play in four NCAA tournaments, breaking 21 Kansas State records and 11 Big Eight Conference records from 1987-90. A 90 percent free throw shooter, Henson averaged 13.0 points in his career.