Bruce Hensley doesn’t claim to have witnessed everything in his 24 seasons as boys basketball coach at Greenwood Community High School.
However, it’s hard to deny he’s seen a lot.
Through 10 games, this season has been one of more downs than ups for Hensley as indicated by the Woodmen’s 1-9 record entering Friday’s home Mid-State Conference game against Decatur Central.
But if the 57-year-old dean of Johnson County basketball coaches has one thing in his corner, it’s patience. It’s an attribute that was rewarded Saturday when Greenwood downed Indian Creek 66-53 in the annual county tournament for its first win of the season.
So what changed for this group that scored 33 or fewer points in five of its first nine games? A team that over that stretch was outscored by average of 23.3 points?
“In those first nine games, we as a team were just unwilling to change anything about the way we played. We weren’t playing hard enough. We weren’t giving enough effort.
“Some of it was from frustration. Some of it is the players letting things get to them, and then things would just build,” said Hensley, a 1973 Greenwood graduate and former Woodmen player himself.
“Leading up to the Indian Creek game we had three really good practices. I applaud our players for that. As coaches we didn’t really do anything different. We just made practices more competitive, and the kids responded to it.”
Whether this signals some sort of midseason about-face for the Woodmen has yet to be answered. If so, the timing couldn’t be better considering Greenwood is in the midst of a five-game losing streak to Decatur Central and a six-game skid against Roncalli, another upcoming opponent.
Leading scorer Jaren Hornbeak, a junior guard who averages 17.6 points a game, hopes so.
“Obviously, we didn’t start the season the way we wanted, but we’re sticking together and are playing a lot better lately,” said Hornbeak, who posted a career-best 35 points in Greenwood’s 87-82 overtime loss at Beech Grove on Dec. 22 and another 30 in the win against the Braves.
“We believe we can compete, and we’re playing a lot harder now. We said before the Indian Creek game that we were going to win this game. We just had the attitude going in that we were going to.”
Hensley pushed many a button trying to get his players to respond. He experimented with different player combinations in the hopes that points weren’t so difficult to come by.
Hornbeak’s contributions aside, the Woodmen also have benefited from the play of varsity veterans such as Brandon Petty, Raddell Waddy, LaRon Patterson, Avonte Waddy, Nate Jones, Shane Roberts, Matt Baughman, Alex Ault and others.
Hensley’s tenure has been dotted with successes such as his program’s two sectional championships and the 13 years in which the Woodmen achieved a double-figure win total. Conversely, his 17-5 finisher in 2005-06 represents Greenwood’s most recent winning season.
There’s no quit in Greenwood’s coach regardless of how the final weeks of this season unfold.
“I think anybody who considers themselves a teacher and not just a coach will tell you they enjoy practices much more than games. Like the kids, yes, sometimes you get frustrated by it. You want to be competitive. You want to compete. If we can get that effort, we as coaches will be happy,” Hensley said.
“I would be disappointed if we slipped back. I’m really excited about this game Friday night.”
THE HENSLEY ERA: RECORDS FOR THE GREENWOOD BOYS BASKETBALL TEAM SINCE 1990