Hennessey Handy and her comeback from injury for her senior basketball season


Photo by James Tananan Kamnuedkhun

Senior guard Hennessey Handy prepares to attempt a free throw during a women’s basketball practice on Friday, Nov. 13, 2020.

Billy Woods, Reporter

On a January afternoon at Hyland Arena, with only 30 seconds left in the game and the Lions trailing against Maryville University, coach Katie Falco called a designed play for transfer guard Hennessey Handy. It was a “head tap” play, where Handy would be coming off a screen from the center for an easy and quick layup attempt.  

“I still remember it like it was yesterday,” Handy said.  

It was a movement and something she had done countless times throughout her basketball life. But on this one play, she tore the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in her right knee.  

“In that moment, I heard it pop,” Handy said. “I knew my season was over and I thought it would be my last time playing. I started crying once I got carried off the court.” 

After playing and starting in just nine games in her first season as a Lion, where she averaged 11.2 points per game, her 2019-2020 season was done.   

As a freshman at Kilgore College, Handy tore her ACL in her left knee. She knew the process and work that was needed to comeback and be the same player as she was before the injury.  

“It takes a big support system,” Handy said, “and I’ve always had that in my life. My parents are very supportive, my teammates are very supportive, and my coaches are very supportive. It always feels good to have people behind your back and pushing you to be the person that you know you can be.” 

Once Handy underwent surgery and began the early stages of rehabilitation on her right knee, COVID-19 forced the shutdown of gyms and training facilities, which left her to be creative at home to regain strength in her knee. Handy said she would do lots of stretching, while also performing different variations of squats and quad exercises and giving extra care to ensure that she was building a proper balance of muscle in both legs instead of favoring one side.  

It was hard,” Handy said. “I didn’t want to just be sitting on my butt and going backwards instead of forwards, because if I go backwards, then I could hurt it again. Once I started meeting with trainers again, they said whatever I was doing at home was working.” 

Handy was making accelerated progress, even going on lengthy runs, which she said she wasn’t technically supposed to do, but did anyways because she knew her own strength. Even with her progress, Handy was still struggling with machine leg extensions. With her good leg, she could push 180 pounds, but on her now weak leg, she was struggling to muster the strength to push even 25 pounds.  

“It really made me worry if I would be okay,” Handy said. “Every day I would come and get on that machine over and over again until the weight would go higher and higher and higher.” 

After roughly two months of tirelessly working for strength in her right knee, Handy was able to push the same weight with both legs. 

“It felt good,” Handy said. “It motivated me more, like if I can do that, then I can do anything.” 

Moving forward after the injury, Handy said she feels like the whole process has made her not only a better and stronger basketball player, but a more passionate player. 

When Handy laces up the shoes and steps on the court, her alter ego “Henry” awakens. When “Henry” is activated and that switch is turned, she becomes an on-court leader with more energy, strength, and happiness. The alter ego allows her to let go of the nerves associated with playing in high stress situations. 

“I’m ready for whatever happens,” Handy said. “I’m passionate about this team and I know we’re going to win some games.” 

Handy is entering her senior basketball season, one that she said she hopes is a full season with all games being played and everyone remaining healthy and safe. 

Moving forward, Handy said she feels great about her health on the court, even after experiencing ACL tears in each knee. 

“You just have to push yourself, mentally and physically. If you can do that, then you can put your mind to anything else and do anything you want to do.”