March 02, 2016
Playing in Villanova’s starting five, it’s fairly easy to get lost in the shuffle. All you have to do is run through the names.
Ryan Arcidiacono has been the team’s heart and soul since… well, forever. Jalen Brunson is the talented freshman, the McDonald’s All-American. Josh Hart is the versatile wing and maybe the best pro prospect of the bunch. Daniel Ochefu is the senior presence in the middle that allows Jay Wright to play 4-out.
That leaves Kris Jenkins. With all of the attention that his teammates command, do the players sense that the 6’6” junior forward can go unnoticed at times?
“I’m not sure how they could forget about him,” Hart said.
DePaul might not have forgot about Jenkins, but they certainly didn’t guard him well enough. And in the Wildcats’ 83-62 win on Tuesday night, he made them pay. Jenkins poured in a career-high 31 points on 11-18 shooting and and 8-14 effort from deep.
If you noticed, Jenkins didn’t have to do much more than tee up wide-open shots. Villanova doesn’t run many plays for him (outside of some post-ups here and there), but Jenkins was the major beneficiary on a night when the team assisted on 20 of 29 field goals.
“My teammates do an unbelievable job of making the right play and recently the right play has been for me to catch and shoot,” Jenkins said. “They do a great job of finding me. They attack the basket and teams collapse on them and I'm always there for them."
The thing is, shooting is exactly what the Wildcats want Jenkins to do. When asked about the reason for his recent hot shooting— Jenkins has exceeded 19 points in his last four games — Wright cracked a joke.
“He don’t pass,” Wright said.
|Points ||Three-point shooting |
|Xavier ||22||3-5 |
|Marquette ||19 ||4-9 |
That isn’t entirely true. Behind the three point guards in the rotation (Arch, Brunson, and Phil Booth), Jenkins actually has the highest assist rate on the team. And even though he may be the least heralded member of the starting lineup, Kris Jenkins might very well lead the Wildcats in scoring this postseason.
“I have free rein to make the right basketball play for our team,” he said.
With the win over DePaul, Villanova clinched its third consecutive Big East regular season title. Even in a watered-down league, this is a major accomplishment. And yet the Wildcats seem to understand how everyone else feels after two disappointing early exits in the Big Dance.
“We really do take pride in the regular season, and we evaluate our program by what we do in the regular season,” Wright said. “That’s how we make all of our decisions.”
“But we know we’ll get judged publicly by how we do in the tournament.”
Follow Rich on Twitter: @rich_hofmann