It’s not that Kris Jenkins is wearing the proverbial chip on his shoulder or chalking naysayers up as haters. It’s just that after consistently dominating everyone he’s matched up against, Jenkins truly doesn’t get people who can’t get over the fact he really doesn’t have a set position.
“People always say I’m too small to play in the paint or I’m too slow to play on the perimeter,” said Jenkins, a junior combo forward at Gonzaga College High School (Washington, D.C.). “Honestly, now I’m to the point where I don’t really care. It’s more like, ‘I don’t really understand that, but OK.’ I just have to make a believer out of people with how I play.”
Next lesson starts Friday (7:30 p.m. ET on ESPN2) when Jenkins leads the Purple Eagles, ranked No. 14 in the POWERADE FAB 50, against Washington Catholic Athletic Conference rival DeMatha (Hyattsville, Md.), ranked No. 29.
“I use it as motivation when people doubt me,” Jenkins said. “It’s crazy because they look at my size [6-foot-5, 250 pounds] and base it off that.”
Still, even the most spirited skeptics have to admit that the 20 points and eight rebounds per game Jenkins is posting -- while sharing shots with the No. 2 point guard in the ESPNU 60, junior Nate Britt -- is quite a feat in the brutal WCAC.
“No doubt,” said Britt, the Eagles’ floor general who is committed to North Carolina. “Kris gives it to whoever we play against.”
Oftentimes that means players with a substantial height advantage. But Britt contends the taller players bear the greater disadvantage when they face Jenkins.
“Kris has some of the best footwork of any player I’ve ever seen in any sport,” Britt said. “It allows him to get past pretty much anyone. And he’s just got a great feel for the game, so he can hurt you in so many ways. His size doesn’t hold him back at all.”
In fact, Jenkins’ size is the thing that indirectly makes him so effective, according to Dave Telep, ESPN senior national recruiting analyst.
“The questions about his size and his ability just fuels his competitive edge and it makes him go harder,” Telep said. “It’s like a built-in motivator that’s never going to go away. If Kris woke up tomorrow and he was 6-foot-9, I don’t know if he’d be as good a player.”
DeMatha point guard James Robinson doesn’t even want to think about a giant-sized Jenkins. The undersized version gave the Stags all sorts of problems on Jan. 21, when Jenkins scored 27 points to help Gonzaga escape with a 76-74 win.
“We don’t really read too much into how tall Kris is. He can play,” said Robinson, a senior who has signed with Pittsburgh. “He’s tough because he can step out and hit the 3 or use his body in the lane. He goes hard.”
That motor has some of the country’s top colleges -- Clemson, Georgetown, Ohio State, Louisville, Villanova, Rutgers, La Salle, George Mason, George Washington, Xavier and Miami -- in hot pursuit.
“At the end of the day, the people who matter know what I’m capable of,” Jenkins said. “My mindset is to prove to everyone that I’m just a basketball player. I’m the guy who does whatever he has to for his team to win. The doubters? I just take the high road and smile at them.”
And that makes him feel even taller.