116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
It doesn't take long when talking with Randi Henderson to realize you're not talking to just anyone. You're talking with someone who very clearly cares about the people with whom she shares a room.
This is one trait of Henderson's that always has stayed the same, even since her breast cancer diagnosis in July 2020.
Randi Henderson, formerly Peterson, grew up in Cedar Falls, a standout basketball player and swimmer in high school.
Henderson's time at Cedar Falls solidified that, above all else, it's the relationships that set the prep athletic experience apart.
'Lots of people poured into my life and wanted me to be successful,” she said.
Family-like closeness had always been a core value for Henderson, whether it was biologically or basketball oriented. When choosing between colleges, she wanted her grandparents to be able to see her play as much as possible, and always was attracted to basketball programs that had a family 'feel.”
Putting a high value on the people around her has faithfully guided Henderson to this very day.
When she visited the University of Iowa and saw the way the women's basketball team cared about each other, her college decision became crystal clear.
Lisa Bluder's first year as Iowa's head women's basketball coach was Henderson's senior year. The team went from winning just nine games the previous season to winning the Big Ten championship.
Without the leadership of Henderson and the rest of her senior class, Bluder believes it 'would not have happened.”
'On the court, Randi was a great rebounder. She knew her own strength, and she worked really hard at it,” Bluder said. 'Off the court, she always looked at a challenge and took it head on. That part of her personality - how hard she works - has paid off in so many ways. Especially now, in her cancer fight.”
Henderson's heart has always shined through just as much as her physical abilities. In such a prominent way, Bluder said, 'One year coaching, and now forever friends.”
Growing up in Iowa, Henderson learned how to pour into her coaches, teammates and friends, just the way they had poured into her.
Today, as a wife, mother of two (Harper and Zeke) and the head women's basketball coach at Washington University in St. Louis, the effect of the time she focused on how she treated others has made its way full circle.
Last July, Henderson was diagnosed with breast cancer. In the time between her originally scheduled mammogram (canceled due to COVID-19) and her rescheduled appointment, the cancer had grown enough that they started immediate chemo treatment.
Numerous former teammates, players and coaches and even families from the AAU basketball club coached by her husband, Duez Henderson, have reached out with their love, support and prayers.
One example of support came from some of Henderson's former Coe College players. Before coaching at Washington University, one of Henderson's positions was the head coach for the Kohawks' women's basketball team from 2006 through 2015. These players decided 'since they weren't able to be there to hug her in person, they hoped she would be wrapped in their love” through a sweater they made, with notes of love and encouragement sown into the interior.
On Dec. 14, 2020, Henderson rang the bell to commemorate finishing her chemo treatments.
But, she was commemorating much more than just her first medical achievement on this road. Her personal, spiritual and emotional journeys earned their respective recognition as well.
The future has not been erased of its challenges for Henderson, but the ones that have yet to come will undoubtedly be met with the fiercest kind of love and support.
This story was originally published as part of the Iowa Girl Project for the IGHSAU. Lauren Dufoe is part of The Gazette's part-time sports staff and a former high school journalism contributor at Center Point-Urbana.