Shawn Jenkins thought he was ready for a coaching hiatus.
He resigned from his position as the boys basketball coach at Westside and began looking for new teaching opportunities. In that search he found his way back to coaching, taking over as the head coach at Independence, succeeding Mike Green.
“I saw the teaching job first and I kind of got excited about that because that was an opportunity,” Jenkins said. “Then as I continued to look I saw the basketball job and that it was available. My heart just skipped a beat. I had been thinking at the time that I was going to take some time off but the more I got to thinking about it I’m 51 and I’m in good health so if I’m going to do it I need to go ahead and just do it. I throw my name in there and got offered both jobs.”
Jenkins takes the helm of a program at a school where basketball sits firmly behind wrestling, football, baseball and softball as a priority, a change from his position at Westside where basketball is king.
“It is a lot different,” Jenkins said. “I was talking to a friend a little while ago and told him this is a different monster. It’s a completely different environment and job altogether. It’s football, wrestling and baseball and those sports have all been successful. I thought if those sports have all been successful there why can’t basketball? I don’t really think about previously, I just tried to come in and instill the kind of culture I think you need to put something together.”
Because of the success other sports at Indy have had, Jenkins believes he can build something that lasts at his new stop. It’s his belief something special is occurring.
“When I was interviewing for my teaching job I told them I thought the school was pointed in the right direction and getting ready to take off and I’d like to be a part of that,” Jenkins said. “I said that in my interview and that’s the way it feels. I do feel like we can build something there and hopefully the basketball program can be recognized as well. It may take some time to build and create but it seems like It’s getting there.”
Due to the football team’s run to the state championship, Jenkins hasn’t had a practice with a full team. He’s hoping he gets at least six or seven football players to come out as many have expressed interest. Until then he’s rolling with a younger crew.
“Chris Lilly, Colton Hughes, Corey Shumate, Jordan James, Zach Smith, Jamarion Henderson and Cameron Vandall are the kids – I’ve got a freshman right now named Ashton Arthur and those are the kids we’ve been working with here since basketball season started and they hung out in the gym during the three week period and I feel like the foundation is going to be built on them,” Jenkins said. “I know I’m in the honeymoon phase and kids want to listen and be coached but those kids really do. They come in the gym every day and give me everything they’ve got and the environment in the locker room is really good. I think we can be competitive with this group. If you’re going to coach, the expectation is to put yourself in position to win sectional tournaments and regionals and go to state tournaments and compete for titles. That’s what you do.”
Jenkins does worry that the experience is a weakness, but also knows he’ll have to be patient in his first year. It helps he’s never looked at the regular season as must-win territory. He’s preached throughout his career that it’s a time to develop, learn and improve for when the games really matter in the postseason.
“Experience alone is tough,” Jenkins said. “Chris and Colton and Zach all come from Shady. They were at Shady last year and came over to Independence and none of those kids have gotten any game experience. Right now I just want them to get out there. The beautiful thing about basketball is we have 22 scrimmage games because nothing matters until February. You can work hard and get better. In football every Friday night means something so those games count. Basketball’s not like that so we need game-time experience. Right now we’ll probably lean on Corey Shumate more than anybody because he does have some experience – him and Jordan James. We’ll lean on them more and hopefully the other ones will get some experience, get comfortable and get better as we go.”