Gonzaga (Washington, D.C.) coach Steve Turner’s phone blew up Monday night, shortly after one of his former players, Kris Jenkins, hit the three-pointer that gave Villanova a 77-74 defeat of North Carolina for the national championship.
“I’ve seen him make that shot many times,” Turner said. “Against O’Connell (Arlington, Va.), against the Crime Stopper (Aquille Carr), against Dematha (Hyattsville, Md.). It’s funny. I got well over 200 texts last night, one by one of his former teammates, Matt Jackson (a former Dickinson College player now attending Virginia Tech). I’ll read you the exact text. ‘How many times have we seen him make that shot? There’s 30 people in the world who aren’t surprised and that’s everyone who was with us in 2011 through 2013 to see what he could do.’ ”
Jenkins finished his career as Gonzaga’s all-time leading scorer, but he frequently battled weight problems. It wasn’t until he got down to 240 pounds as a 6-6 forward at Villanova that he began to have an impact with the Wildcats.
“I have a team banquet tonight and Kris has already written my script for me,” Turner said. “He’s an example of believing and trusting in the process. We’ve got a generation right now of parents and kids who don’t trust the process anymore. It’s why we have, in the NCAA right now, over 500 kinds transferring this coming year.
“He went to Villanova as a two-time Gatorade Player of the Year, two-time All-Met player, one-time All-Met player of the Year. With the minutes that he was getting his freshman and sophomore years (at Villanova) and kind of the role he was in. He’s the kid who’s supposed to be on the list, based on the way you’re seeing kids go now. But, no, he listened to everything Jay Wright told him. ‘Kris, you have to get in shape. Kris you have to take off this weight. Kris you have to eat better. Kris, you have to do these things. We believe in you. We trust you, but you need you to do it.’ He stayed there and did those things and now, he’s the poster child for “One Shining Moment.” There is no better shot, no better finish for the NCAA tournament than what happened last night. It’s all because Kris, as a young man, trusted in the process. He let things happen that maybe he wanted earlier, let them come to fruition by doing all he was asked by his coaches and the people around him.”
Turner did get to see Jenkins in the Final Four but wasn’t there for Monday’s championship.
“I did text him and most times, in this type of game, I’ll hear from him today,” Turner said. “He always gets back. He’s very humble. When he’s in town, he makes a point to check on me. It kills me every year because I haven’t gotten to a lot of games at ‘Nova, but I made it to the Final Four the other night, but I wasn’t there for last night’s game. I was proud of him for having this opportunity and blessed to take advantage of it.”
Jenkins played on several good teams at Gonzaga, including teams that included North Carolina’s Nate Britt (whose parents were Jenkins’ legal guardians in high school). However, he never won a Washington Catholic Athletic Conference title, though his senior year, Gonzaga went 18-0 during its regular season.
“We did not win the WCAC championship in his four years, but now he has his championship,” Turner said.