NEWS, NOTES &
Friday, January 19, 2007
By Bethany Bradsher
Faith sustains Jenkins one more time
By Bethany Bradsher
All rights reserved.
Darrell Jenkins has been counted out before. And
because he knows there are fans that have already dismissed the East
Carolina basketball season as a lost cause, he is confident that he is meant
to be a Pirate.
Jenkins, a junior transfer point guard who is
averaging 12.5 points per game to lead all ECU scorers so far this season,
has possibly had the most atypical rise to Division I basketball of any
athlete in the nation. The highlights of his journey include almost no high
school ball, a four-year college that never played him and two different
And as he traveled a cross-cross-country trek
that took him from California to Georgia, back to California then to Nevada,
Idaho and finally Eastern North Carolina, he found within himself not only
steadfastness, but also a firm belief that God was directing his steps.
“I probably called every school in the nation,”
he said of a period two years ago when he was languishing at Santa Anna
College in California. “I got hung up on, 'no,' 'we’re not interested,' 'no
thank you,' no response, and that hurt. I wanted to quit so many times, but
my mom kept on telling me, 'God’s going to bless you, God’s going to bless
It’s that unwavering hope, as well as his soft
shot and excellent floor vision, that makes Jenkins a natural fit for East
Carolina. He has found a family in his teammates, he said, and the chemistry
and determination they share, he is sure, will lead to success in his short
tenure at ECU.
“We’re all friends,” he said. “We want to win,
but off the court we laugh, we hang out, we enjoy each other. On the court
it’s hard, because I hate losing. We all do. But I’m an optimist — I bring
the attitude that things will be different.”
A native of Anaheim, CA, Jenkins and his family
moved to Atlanta when he was 10, and then they moved back and forth from
California to Georgia a few times, enough to wreak havoc with Jenkins’ plans
to star on a high school team. But he did get to play on a Georgia AAU team,
and that was the arena that earned the respect of several college coaches.
His first scholarship offer came from Tennessee,
and the Volunteers coach who pursued him was Chris Ferguson. Ferguson
remained a friend, but Jenkins didn’t have the grades to sign at Tennessee.
Next he worked out for the University of San
Diego, where Steve Flint was the assistant coach. Again, his academic
struggles threw up a roadblock.
It seemed that his Division I dreams might be
realized when Jenkins enrolled at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas and
walked on to the team. His family was so sure that he was going to land at
UNLV that they moved there, too. But it didn’t take long for Jenkins to feel
like little more than an accessory at the end of the bench.
“I didn’t play a minute,” he said. “I remember
we were beating Western Illinois by about 40, and I still didn’t get in.”
Looking just for a chance to contribute, Jenkins
next went to Santa Anna College, where he finished out that season. But he
didn’t feel challenged there, and his game wasn’t progressing.
It was against this backdrop that he went on his
Great College Search, spending hours on the Internet or on the phone in an
effort to find the Division I coach willing to take a chance on him.
Jenkins might have been coming up dry in his
pursuit, but his father was surfing the Web, too. The senior Jenkins’
research led him to the home page of the College of Southern Idaho, one of
the premier junior-college basketball programs in the country. A look at the
CSI coaching staff revealed a familiar name: Steve Flint, formerly of the
University of San Diego.
“It’s funny, because my dad was just on the
Internet one day and saw the name, and I don’t know what I’d be doing if he
hadn’t,” he said. “I’d probably be at Home Depot right now.”
So it was off to Idaho for his second year of
eligibility, and this was an entirely different junior college experience.
With 9.1 points and 4.3 assists a game, he helped lead CSI to the NJCAA
Soon Chris Ferguson was calling again, this time
from East Carolina.
He considered making a visit to ECU, but he
initially made the decision to sign with Northern Iowa. Still, neither he
nor his mother felt at peace with that choice. He apologized to the Northern
Iowa coach, made his ECU visit and changed his course.
“I really feel that God has blessed me with this
opportunity, and if he didn’t want me here, I wouldn’t be here,” he said.
“And you know, I feel that his plan is to mold me into a better man and a
winner. And I feel that I’m going to have my chance.”
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02/23/2007 01:14:32 AM