By TREY WILLIAMS
Just when it looked like the coronavirus pandemic might royally stiff him, David Crockett basketball player Mack Hensley learned his game was fit for a King.
Hensley recently signed with King University, ending a protracted process that began when potential workouts for Walters State and Milligan were postponed due to the virus.
King won the Conference Carolinas championship this past season during the final year of George Pitts, who was succeeded at season’s end by Jason Gillespie. Assistant Coach Michael Phelps contacted Hensley in the spring.
“Coach Phelps emailed me and told me they had a few spots open if I’d like to take one,” Hensley said. “I said, ‘Yes sir.’ So I went up there and worked out and they wanted me to come and play.
“So I decided to go there. I like the campus. I like the school, how small it is. It’s close to home.”
Hensley likes what he’s seen from Gillespie, too.
“When I met him on that workout/visit I took about a month ago,” Hensley said, “I liked him as soon as I started talking to him.”
Hensley, a 6-foot-1 shooting guard, scored 435 of his 811 career points as a senior. He averaged 14 points and six rebounds his senior season, shooting 38 percent from 3-point range and 75 percent at the foul line.
The Pioneers went 22-9 and advanced to the region in 2019-20 during Coach Cody Connell’s first season.
“Mack was a dream player for a first-year head coach,” Connell said. “He worked so hard in the offseason. He was such a great leader on and off the floor.
“He will be so successful in everything he does. I’m looking forward to watching him do big things at King College.”
Hensley played for John Good prior to Connell. He couldn’t wait to be a Pioneer, especially after watching Good’s Pioneers secure Crockett’s first state tournament berth when he was in the eighth grade.
“I was raring to go once I got to high school,” Hensley said. “Playing with Coach Good made you be a real disciplined player. He didn’t care if you were a freshman or a senior, he expected you to give 100 percent all the time – in the weight room, on the track running, in practice, in the game. You were supposed to know your role and do your role for the team, whether you just sit on the bench the whole game and feed energy to the people on the floor or if you were in the game to hit shots, play good defense.”
Hensley said he was impressed with the job done by Good’s relatively young successor.
“With Coach Connell, he wasn’t as tough as Coach Good, but it was about the same,” Hensley said with a chuckle.
One of Hensley’s favorite memories was scoring 32 points in a Big Seven Conference-opening victory at rival Daniel Boone during his junior season. He also had a clutch offensive rebound and made two free throws to seal a victory against Tennessee High as a senior.
The friendships are most memorable.
“The team trips we took during the summer to different colleges for camps and tournaments we played in,” he said. “We went to Marshall, Virginia Tech, UNC Asheville. And then this past year we went to ETSU and UNC Asheville, and then played at King a little bit, too. … It was an experience that I’ll never forget.”
Hensley thanked coaches Good and Connell, his friend/former teammate Adam Daniels and his parents (Weston and April) and sister (Gracie) for their instrumental roles in him reaching his goal.
Hensley said he dreamed of playing college basketball while shooting in his driveway as a child.
“I remember playing in the driveway and acting like I was playing for Tennessee, Duke, North Carolina in the Final Four, game tied and hitting a shot to send us to the national championship,” he said. “It’s always been a dream of mine to play at the collegiate level. I’m glad I’m able to, because a lot of people don’t get that opportunity.”