By Sam Bush
Sometimes a recruiting visit leads to a surprise.
Villanova coach Jay Wright was recruiting Nate Britt, Kris Jenkins’ brother and teammate at Gonzaga High in Upper Marlboro, Md., when he initially saw that Jenkins had a full skillset. The “only negative” was that “he had more mass than he should have had on that body structure.”
“We said to Kris, ‘We would love to have you if you would really want to come in here and get into shape and cut your body fat because we think if you did that you could be an incredible basketball player,’ ” Wright said.
Wright told Jenkins he’d have to lose weight to play for a major Division I program, not knowing if he would accept the challenge to shed pounds. When he proved that he was willing to do it, Wright said he knew he had a special player.
Jenkins weighed in the 260-pound range coming out of high school. He’s down to about 240.
“What really attracted me was just how he was really willing to take a chance on a kid who coming out of high school was just a fat kid,” Jenkins said.
“He gave me a plan that I thought could change my entire life, could not only make me the best basketball player, but the best person. I’m still in the process of continuing to get better and so far it’s been good to me.”
Wright’s basketball plan for Jenkins is critical to making everything work for the Wildcats. Wright essentially mastered playing “small ball” over the past decade before anyone else collegiately started relying on smaller lineups.
To make it effective, he needed a player like Jenkins who had the strength to defend power forwards, but the offensive skillset to be a mismatch. That’s what Jenkins has turned into as Nova’s second-leading scorer at 13.3 points per game.
Jenkins could be paired up against Maryland’s 6-9, 235-pound Robert Carter. But that also means Carter might be the one trying to chase Jenkins around. That could give Villanova the advantage offensively.
“He’s a matchup nightmare for the opponent,” Wright said. “But he’s also a valuable, resourceful player for us that can play any position.”