CYO Background, Catholic Faith Guide UConn Freshman

Emmett Hendry, a freshman shooting guard for the University of Connecticut men’s basketball team, played CYO ball at Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish and is now a member of the university’s Catholic Club. (Photo: Courtesy of UConn Athletics)

The life of a Division I student-athlete must be incredibly hectic.

Try balancing practices, games, travel, classes, mandatory study halls, workouts, more studying, and of course sleep. It sounds very challenging.

For University of Connecticut (UConn) freshman men’s basketball player Emmett Hendry, he has all these things on his plate, yet he still makes time for one more important thing: practicing his Catholic faith.

Even with his busy basketball schedule, Hendry is a member of UCONN’s Catholic Club, which meets weekly for Bible studies. He also attends Mass on Sunday evenings after a long week of school, travel, and hoops.

Hendry grew up playing Catholic Youth Organization (CYO) basketball and baseball for Immaculate Heart of Mary (IHM), Windsor Terrace. His basketball career started at age 4 when he attended the parish’s Saturday morning clinics. He later played CYO at Holy Name of Jesus, Park Slope.

At first, Hendry gravitated toward the pitcher’s mound in baseball. However, after a growth spurt and developing a passion for watching college hoops, basketball became his main game. He dedicated countless hours to working on his shot and settled into the position of shooting guard in high school at Leman Manhattan Preparatory School.

Unfortunately, when COVID-19 hit, Hendry lost almost two full seasons of high school basketball. For his senior year, he knew he needed to make a big splash to get noticed by Division I programs.

He thus transferred to Montverde Academy in Florida, known for its powerhouse basketball program. His team won the state championship, and he had a tremendous season – which naturally meant lots of exposure to top schools.

“Spending a year there was a great experience,” Hendry said. “It changed my life.”

He had been in contact with several Division I schools, but soon he received a call from UConn, a perennial contender in the Big East Conference. UConn offered him a position on the team, which made Hendry’s decision process a little easier.

“When UConn reaches out, you just can’t say no,” he said. “We have fans from all around the country. It’s known as the basketball capital of the world. It’s really amazing here.”

Through his first few months, Hendry has fit in well with his teammates and learned so much about this game from his coaches. He’s focused on improving his game this year and contributing in whatever capacity is asked of him.

As he settled into his class and basketball schedule, he found that he was not making the proper time for his faith, which had been such an important part of his family life and upbringing at IHM and in CYO.

“I didn’t feel right honestly,” he said. “I felt like there was something missing in my life.”

First, he looked up Catholic churches nearby. He soon learned that UConn had a Catholic community, so he reached out to the Catholic Club to learn more. Whenever he can, he attends Thursday Bible studies if the team isn’t on the road. This has helped him connect with his faith and prepare for Sunday Masses.

“I love going to Church, and being part of the Catholic community is definitely vital to my life here,” Hendry said.

The values of sport have been ingrained in him for so long that he’s now ready to use his platform on the national stage to inspire others. He’s offered his services to the diocesan CYO program during the offseason to speak to kids about his journey and what they can do to improve their game.

Here’s a young man that is adjusting to life as a high-profile college basketball player while trying to make enough time for his studies and his faith. Yet he’s already thinking about ways in which he can give back to his community that supported him along the way.

Emmett Hendry is the reason why The Tablet’s “Good Sports” page exists. All the best to him as he soon gets to experience Big East Conference play. He’s thoroughly looking forward to playing in Madison Square Garden in front of a huge contingent of family and friends.

Contact Jim Mancari via email at