It’s kind of funny to think that in high school, Josh Hart and Kris Jenkins squared off in the Maryland state playoffs, only to go from adversaries to allies in college. Each year we’ve seen the gradual progression of Hart, going from utility player to sixth man to Big East Tournament MVP. Most recently, Hart was named a John Wooden Award candidate for national player of the year, an incredible honor for a kid who recently became a star in the eyes of the national college fan.
Hart and Jenkins were looked at from Villanova fans as a pair. They both were from outside of Washington D.C., they played at top high school programs, and were two great shooters. With Darryl Reynolds added to the mix, the trio looked to be a promising freshman class of 2013, but there wasn’t an immediate sign that these guys would be the main options going forward, being that they were from out of town and not too many fans had seen them in person.
That changed for Jenkins in the annual Blue/White Scrimmage during Villanova’s Hoops Mania his freshman season. At one point in the game, then-sophomore Ryan Arcidiacono, in transition, found Jenkins in the corner for an open three-pointer, which he nailed. This inspired a newly-found love for the young kid from Maryland that still holds true today with the 'Nova Nation.
Praised for his feel of the game, Jenkins has slowly but surely made his mark in the program ever since coming in from Gonzaga College High School. In the 2014 NCAA Tournament, Jenkins dropped 11 points in the win over Milwaukee in Buffalo, New York, opening eyes as fans looked towards the next season’s potential with #2 in the rotation. At the time though, a problem arose going forward with his weight. Jenkins checked into college at 270 pounds, but with the help of strength and conditioning coach John Shackleton, that number was trimmed down to 240. Jenkins said of the challenge, "I had to lose so much weight that I think it took a toll on me. Coach Shack helped me push through that and get over that hurdle. Now, this summer I'm working to build on what I've already done by working out with Coach Shack to just keep getting better. He's been great and that will continue to be a big part of what I do here." The weight problems didn’t detract from his ability, but ‘Nova coaches saw a position where Jenkins's long-term health would definitely benefit from slimming down, a move that has only reaped benefits. Jenkins is visibly faster and more mobile on the court compared to in years past.
The newly shaped frame added credibility to the junior’s role this season. With a healthier body, the guard has become a legitimate starter in three short seasons, starting 22 out of the 24 games so far this season and averaging a little over 27 minutes per game. Head coach Jay Wright has been able to throw Jenkins in for extended periods of time as a substitution later in the game as well, creating the fun shooting duo of Hart and Jenkins.
Continuing on with this season, Villanova faces the latter portion of their Big East schedule, with marquee matchups against Butler at home followed by back-to-back road games against #5/4 Xavier and Marquette. Villanova’s team scoring margin of +14.9 has been possible in part by Jenkins, for sure. With tons of looks from outside and a solid offensive player even in the post, Kris Jenkins has contributed his fair share. Not just this season, but in the long run of his time at Villanova. Often, the overlooked piece in the whole equation still has a lot to show, and he still has a ton to prove.
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-(1) Villanova defeats (3) Michigan in the National Championship