Hensley beginning PCT rebuild
By ERIC HUNT
Rome was not built in a day, and neither is a championship-calibur college basketball team.
In just his second year at the helm of the Penn College men’s basketball program, Geoff Hensley has guided the Wildcats from a 3-22 season in his first year to their first seven-win season in four years and clinched its first NEAC Conference postseason as the third-seed.
Penn College plays at second-seeded Lancaster Bible, tomorrow at 7 p.m. for the first round game.
Hensley has seen success in his four years as the head coach of Thomas College in Maine, Hensley guided the Terriers to a North Atlantic Conference playoff berth in each of his four seasons including a finals appearance in 2016-17.
While an assistant coach at Center College in 2012-14, he helped the men’s basketball team to two playoff championships and a pair of trips to the NCAA Division III tournament.
“Growing through the coaching ranks at Springfield College and Centre College, both experiences I have been able to learn a lot from those programs and has prepared me to get to where I am right now,” Hensley said. “As a young assistant, I was able to learn from two of the best programs in Division III under coach Charlie Brock (Springfield) and Greg Mason (Centre). How they approached the game, how they saw the X’s and O’s and how they built the cultures of their programs.”
With Hensley’s easy-going-demeanor, his Penn College players have found it easy to buy into his philosophy and are ready to compete every chance they get to play.
“I didn’t expect to see the guys this bought in and playing this well at this point, but maybe that was me underestimating their abilities. They are great guys and hard workers.” Hensley said as the group surprised him with the first Penn College playoff appearance in a decade as a part of the Penn State University Athletic Conference.
“A lot of it comes from everyone buying into what coach Hensley is teaching us,” senior forward Carson Garvis said. “Everyone is playing as a team, there’s not one person just playing for himself, all 17 of us are playing as 1 and everyone has had a hand in our success this year.”
Garvis has felt a difference in culture since his first days on the Penn College campus. He noted the practices are more organized and his class is more focused on a common goal — to compete — rather than just playing basketball.
“We used to just come in a goof off, but now we have a good group of guys that want to work hard and get better every day.” Garvis said.
The attitude of the team even sparked interest before the playoff picture came into focus. Elijah Vazquez and Hensley already had a vision after Vazquez transferred to Penn College during his junior season to help piece together a winning squad, and is the team leader in 3-point field goal percentage (.409) as part of the tandem with Loyalsock grad, Ben Sosa to lead the Wildcats into the playoffs.
“I saw the growth of the program when I met with coach Hensley, he definitely has a good head on his shoulders and had the focus to build the program up from where it was at.” Vazquez said.
Hensley’s team philosophy has gained instant traction from his players to help turn the program around in just two years that he hopes will set the foundation of better things to come from his basketball team.
“We’ve built a great program so far, we are still in the very foundations of building a championship program. We are not there yet, but I am very proud of the group of guys and where we have come in two years.” Hensley said.