Villanova junior guard Kris Jenkins went from local kid to national star after making the game-winning three in the 2016 NCAA Basketball National Championship game on April 4.
Villanova’s Kris Jenkins (2) shoots a game-winning three-point basket in the closing seconds of the NCAA Final Four tournament college basketball championship game against North Carolina, in Houston. Villanova won 77-74. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall, File)
Jenkins’ buzzer-beater put a cap on what will go down as one, if not the greatest, championship games in college basketball history. But it came as no surprise for anyone familiar with the background story of the young man with ties to the D.C., Metropolitan area.
Those who had followed Jenkins since he was young would say he was destined for greatness. His mother, Felicia Jenkins, certainly realized that when she decided to let her son move in with a family from Prince George’s County, Md. to pursue a better opportunity of reaching his full potential at basketball and academics.
According to reports, Jenkins was taught the game of basketball by his mother, who was a college basketball player herself at Claflin University in Orangeburg, S.C. Felicia later became the head coach of the women’s basketball team at Benedict College in Columbia, S.C., the same town her son was born in.
TBS aired a short documentary before the championship game Monday night, showing how Jenkins eventually ended up in Maryland. The AAU team that he played for out of South Carolina played against DC Assault, a Maryland-based AAU team that was coached by Nate Britt, Sr. When Felicia saw how well coached DC Assault was, she decided to move to Maryland, so her son could join Britt’s team.
There, Jenkins developed a tight bond with Nate Britt, Jr., who also played for DC Assault. SB Nation reported that Jenkins spent most of his free time at the Britt household while his mom was at Johns-Hopkins Hospital, attending to her ill infant daughter, who eventually passed away before her first birthday.
When Felicia was later offered the coaching job at Benedict College, she didn’t want to move Jenkins back to South Carolina so she asked if the Britt family could adopt him in. They welcomed him in as one of their own and he went on to play for Gonzaga College High School in Northwest D.C., where he developed into a 6-foot-6 star guard/forward; The Washington Post named him All-Met Player of the Year his senior year in 2013.
Jenkins’ brother, Britt, Jr. also played high school basketball for Gonzaga, but while Jenkins went onto Villanova, Britt chose to join the University of North Carolina’s basketball team – as fate would have it, the two would face off against each other in the championship Monday night.
“It’s been the greatest decision that ever happened in my life,” Jenkins told CBS Sports. “For us to compete against each other , it’s something special for our family.”
Britt, Jr.’s mom, Melody, wore a custom-made jersey during the game that had Britt’s name and number on one side and Jenkins’ name and number on the other side. In her mind, she was the mom of a winner either way. Nate Britt, Sr. felt the same way.
“It’s one of the best feelings I could have ever imagined,” Britt, Sr. told ABC News. “I love basketball so much. And to see my boys out there competing for national championship against one another, I couldn’t think of anything better than that.”