Gonzaga grad hit ‘the shot’ in college — and now hopes for a shot at the NBA

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Kris Jenkins worked out with the Washington Wizards in hopes of being drafted into the NBA. (Brian Kapur/The Current/June 2017)

In March 2016, Gonzaga alum Kris Jenkins became a household name nationally when he hit “the shot” that delivered the Villanova men’s basketball team a NCAA title.

Now Jenkins has spent the last few weeks taking trips to work out for NBA teams with the hopes of getting drafted. But despite his national fame, Jenkins finds his name missing from mock draft projections circulating the web and magazine stands.

One of those outlets — NBAdraftroom.com — says that “Jenkins is not a run/jump athlete and is more of a below the rim player. He lacks ideal height, length and leaping ability. Is not much of a rim protector and will likely struggle to score in the lane against NBA length.”

That type of chatter doesn’t discourage Jenkins. Instead, it fuels him.

“Last time I checked and looked, nobody had me getting drafted,” Jenkins said after a recent workout with the Washington Wizards. “I’m going to do my best to try to change that. I look at everything, I watch everything. Any athlete that tells you that they don’t, they’re lying just a little bit. I watch all of that stuff, I hear everything they have to say. It’s been that way since I was little.”

Kris Jenkins, right, worked out with the Washington Wizards earlier this month. (Brian Kapur/The Current/June 2017)

Jenkins started his pre-draft workouts with the Wizards at the Verizon Center, just a mile away from his alma mater Gonzaga.

“This was my first one, so I’m just thankful for the opportunity to start off right in the hometown,” he said. “It’s a blessing. You always root for the hometown team. It’s humbling to be in this position — to grow up in this area, to play some games here and to play some college games here.”

While Jenkins is best known for his championship bucket as a Villanova junior, he also had a stellar senior season this year. The former Eagle averaged 13.1 points per game, shot 36 percent from three-point range, averaged just over four rebounds per game and dished out a total of 73 assists. In total for his college career, Jenkins amassed 1,383 points.

“It’s an honor, it’s humbling, it’s a blessing and I’m thankful for it,” Jenkins said of his time at Villanova. “I’ll continue to learn and get better throughout the process. I just have to adapt to the game, get in better shape and learn the NBA game because it’s different than college. It’s much more physical. I’m just thankful for the opportunity.”

Jenkins believes his D.C. background is a major advantage that shaped him into the standout he is today. “This is the most competitive area in the world,” he said. “A lot of great players come out of here. It forces you to work hard and stay humble at an early age or you’ll get left behind.”

At the Wizards’ workout, one of the team’s coaches who worked out Jenkins and the other prospects was David Adkins. He’s known for coaching high-schoolers in the D.C. area — including the 2017 NBA finals’ most valuable player, Kevin Durant.

Former high school coach and current Wizards assistant David Adkins, who worked with Jenkins when he was younger, was on hand while Jenkins worked out for the Wizards this month. (Brian Kapur/The Current/June 2017)

Adkins also trained Jenkins at a young age, and now the draft recruit relishes the chance to work with a familiar face.

“When we were younger, Nate [Britt] and I used to work out with him,” Jenkins said of the coach. “Everything comes full circle.” The Villanova and Gonzaga graduate believes that he would be a boost to any team.

“I can compete defensively, talk and be a great teammate,” Jenkins said. “I can fit in, do what I’m supposed to and help the team win. Everywhere I have been and every program I have been a part of, we have won. I like to think I’m a good part of that, and hopefully I can continue to keep that going.”

Despite Jenkins’ long odds, he has faith that his 2016 shot — which he is renowned for, after hitting it on the biggest stage in college basketball — will help give him a chance to realize his NBA dreams.

“Everybody needs a shooter, so somebody will give me a look,” Jenkins said.

The NBA draft takes place this Thursday at 7 p.m. in Brooklyn. Jenkins’ high school rival Markelle Fultz, who played for Washington Catholic Athletic Conference foe DeMatha, is expected to be the No. 1 overall pick by the Philadelphia 76ers. Meanwhile, Jenkins’ Villanova teammate Josh Hart — a Sidwell graduate — is also up for selection, and worked out for a bevy of teams including the Los Angeles Lakers.

“This is the biggest moment of our lives right now,” Hart told the Lakers’ website after his workout on June 5. “I think I would be able to come in and make an immediate impact on the defensive side of the ball.”

DraftExpress.com projects Hart, who was the 2017 Big East player of the year, as a second-round pick.