HOUSTON — It took two families and lots of sacrifice to get Kris Jenkins to Villanova. That was the difficult part. Making one of the biggest shots in college basketball history was easy by comparison.
With both of his families in the house — the one that took him in and provided the stability he needed, and the one that realized that what they could give him might not be what he needed most — Jenkins dropped in a 3-pointer at horn Monday night to give the Wildcats their first national championship since 1985. The 77-74 victory against North Carolina also gave Jenkins bragging rights for life over his brother, Tar Heels guard Nate Britt.
“Nobody, really understood the hard work and dedication it took from my family, both of my families,” Jenkins said as he sat in the locker room, the national championship trophy lying on his chest like a resting baby. “It was great to share this moment with them.”
On the last play, which began with 4.7 seconds left, Jenkins was the player to inbound the ball from under his own basket to Ryan Arcidiacono. Jenkins had a feeling he would be open as the trailer. Sure enough he was.
“I believe every shot’s going in,” said Jenkins, who was slowed by foul trouble in the first half but scored 14 points in 21 minutes.
“Kris Jenkins’ explanation was brilliant,” Wright said of the junior’s break down of the last play. “That’s what I said to him when he was walking out. Because he’s the last option because he’s the inbounder. If he can catch up with Arch and get ahead of him and get in his vision, that’s your last look.”
Wright says he wanted Britt more than he wanted Jenkins when he started recruiting the brothers from the Baltimore area. Jenkins was out of shape and Wright wasn’t sure he could put in the work needed to play Villanova basketball.
Jenkins, by the way, doesn’t quite buy that story from his coach. But the fact remains that Jenkins has dropped about 40 pounds from his 6-foot-6 frame to become the second-leading scorer on a national championship team.
“I’ve been doubted my whole life. People always had buts after they say, ‘well Khris can do this but,’” Jenkins said. “One thing they can’t say is Kris is not a national champion.”
Jenkins played AAU ball with Britt, on a team coached by Britt’s father, Nate Sr. After his birth parents split up, his mother, Felicia Jenkins, got a job coaching basketball at a small school in Columbia, South Carolina. Felicia Jenkins helped craft the shooter that Jenkins has become, making sure he built up his range by not letting him shoot 3s until he mastered 2s.
She moved Kris to South Carolina but didn’t feel like it was the best situation for him. She asked the Britts if he could live with them back in Maryland and they became his legal guardians in 2007.
Jenkins and Britt aren’t just like brothers, they are brothers.
Britt and Jenkins’ sister, Natalia, sported a shirt for the game that had a depiction of Nate’s 0 jersey and the North Carolina logo on the front and Kris’ No. 2 jersey and a Villanova logo on the back.
Nate Britt and Jenkins hugged after the game and Britt congratulated him. Britt said he knew when Jenkins stepped into that shot it was going in. Having his brother be the hero, didn’t make it feel any better.
“Obviously, right now it hurts more than anything,” he told reporters.
It was Britt who said Sunday the winner would be able to hold this over the loser forever.
“As my brother I’m sad for him, but as a competitor I want to win so I’m happy that the shot went in,” Jenkins said. “A lifetime of bragging rights.”