NEW YORK -- The NBA Draft is about weights and measurements and projecting potential to the next level. It's about indoctrinating young minds and bodies into the brutal, cutthroat business of pro basketball. And yes, it's about trading players and picks and cash, and about moving names around a board until they look like they'll fit.
But for some, the NBA Draft also is about dreams. For Charles Jenkins, it looks like his dream is about to come true.
His dream, and his brother's dream all wrapped up into one.
|Charles Jenkins wore No. 22 at Hofstra in honor of his brother, murdered at that age. (US Presswire)|
Thank you to God, and thank you to Kareem Albritton, who did not live to see his little brother pass through these gates of the highest level in basketball.
"I'm pretty sure he'll be bragging to everyone about it," said Jenkins, a point guard projected to be taken in the late first or early second round.
Jenkins, two-time Player of the Year in the Colonial Athletic Association, was seventh in the nation in scoring (22.6 points per game) and second in the conference with 4.8 assists per game last season. His dual ability to score and distribute has impressed NBA executives, who became even more enamored of the 6-foot-3 guard during the pre-draft interview process. Jenkins' most recent workout was with the Pistons on Wednesday. He has worked out for 11 other teams, including the Mavericks, Spurs, Heat, Rockets and his hometown Knicks.
According to DraftExpress.com and data from Synergy Sports Technology, Jenkins was the second-most efficient isolation threat in college basketball last season, scoring on more than 50 percent of his one-on-one attempts. Synergy also has him ranked in the top 10 for pick-and-roll efficiency and top 25 on catch-and-shoot attempts.
He spent his first six years of life in Brownsville, one of New York City's most impoverished and violent areas. His father, Charles Sr., moved the family to Rosedale, Queens, bordering the affluent Nassau County suburbs, to give his children a better upbringing. But Charles' older brother couldn't stay away from the old neighborhood.
"My brother was a tough guy, a street guy," Jenkins said. "As far as what he was into, when I was younger he played basketball a lot, and that's how I got into it. But for him, he was a street guy. ... My dad seeing what happened to my brother from him going down that path, he let me know. He said, 'I know you loved your brother, but this is the result for some people who live this lifestyle.' I didn't want that to happen to me. I saw how a lot of lives changed with the passing of my brother, and it was something I didn't want to be a part of."
The tale of how Jenkins made it from Springfield Gardens High School, where former Knick Anthony Mason played, to NCAA Division I basketball, is a story of two families crossing paths. David Duke, a former assistant coach at Hofstra, had met Jenkins' father long before recruiting his son. Jenkins Sr. used to bring kids from the St. John's Home for Boys in Far Rockaway, Queens, to Hofstra games. When he and Duke got to talking, the conversation naturally turned to the determined point guard nobody outside the community seemed to know about.
Armed only with a scouting report generated by a father's untrained eye, Duke showed up at one of Jenkins' practices -- fully decked out in his Hofstra shirt and cap. As a small-school recruiter, Duke was always on the trail of some undiscovered prospect. Most of these trails lead to dead ends, but every once in a while, you find a Jenkins. You find a pro.
"I'll never forget this," Duke said. "The day I walked in and saw him, I said, 'This kid's got it.'"
|NBA Draft 2011|
|NBA Draft video|
Duke was the first Division I scout to pay Jenkins a visit, something the player will never forget, either.
"As the week progressed, he told me all about Hofstra and how I could come to that program and help," Jenkins said. "He was a psychic, because he told me if I worked hard, all these things would come true. He was the first one that even gave me a look and felt I was a good enough player to play at the Division I level."
Duke, who has since followed former Hofstra coach Tom Pecora to Fordham as his lead assistant, took a special interest in the player he had found. Early in Jenkins' freshman year, Duke began pulling Jenkins aside for private, one-on-one workouts where the pep talks were as important as the playing.
"One practice he took me upstairs and we worked out a little bit," Jenkins said. "We played one-on-one, and I beat him pretty bad. He sat me down and told me if I continue to work, I was going to be a great player."
Said Duke of that private tutoring session, "It wasn't pretty for me at all." Now, Jenkins could become only the third player from the New York City public schools to make it to the NBA in the past seven years, joining Quincy Douby (2006) and Sebastian Telfair (2004).
Jenkins has been busy since pulling off these feats against William & Mary in February -- to the tune of more than 42,000 YouTube views. In the weeks leading up to the Chicago pre-draft camp in May, Jenkins worked with a nutritionist to revamp his diet and was in the gym three times a day, dropping 16 pounds and lowering his body-fat percentage to 4.3. After a college career filled with dorm food and McDonald's, Jenkins now sticks to vegetables, grilled meats and fish.
"No sodas, no juices," he said. "No restaurants."
If and when he hears his name called at the draft Thursday night in Newark, N.J., Jenkins should allow himself one decadent, celebratory meal. And wherever he goes, wherever this journey leads him, Jenkins' brother will never be far from his thoughts. Neither will a certain 11-year-old girl without a dad.
Kemoni Albritton was barely a year old when the father she never knew was lost forever. The child's mother and Jenkins' parents have raised her, and now Jenkins wants to do his part. Whatever the new business model of pro basketball allows rookies to be paid, it will be enough to make his niece's life a little easier. Jenkins' brother was there for him -- the only fan in the stands at his first youth basketball game in Queens, and the coach of the team when he won his first game. Now, 11 years later, Jenkins wants to be there for him.
"I was around when she was born at the hospital," Jenkins said. "I spent a lot of time around my brother and my niece and saw how much she changed him and how much he cared about her. Now I have an opportunity to make something good happen. I know that's something that he would want."