Hofstra to honor senior leader Jenkins
The Pride's all-time leading scorer will have his jersey retired -- a fitting reward
HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. -- By 2 p.m. on Thursday, Charles Jenkins had already had a rather long day.
It started with a 4:30 a.m. wakeup call in North Carolina, where his Hofstra squad had defeated UNC-Wilmington 71-64 the night before (thanks in no small part to his 22 points).
He boarded a flight at 6:25, landed at LaGuardia at 8:10, and still had to see the trainer for treatment after arriving back on campus around 9.
Yet, after a brief nap, there was Jenkins -- sitting among a couple hundred or so fans at the Mack Sports Complex, cheering on the Hofstra women's basketball team in a game against George Mason.
"You gotta come out and support," Jenkins said. "Our women's team always comes out and supports us every chance they get. So it's only right that we return the favor."
Hofstra University will be returning the favor to Jenkins when they honor him as part of a very special Senior Day celebration on Saturday, before the team's final home game against Delaware. Jenkins will not only get to walk out on the court with his parents, get a hug from his coach and receive a big round of applause from the crowd -- he'll also get to see his No. 22 hang from the rafters, never to be worn again.
Jenkins will become the 25th athlete in Hofstra history to have his or her number retired -- but the first to have it retired as an active player.
"If you were going to do this, he would be the type of guy you'd want to do it for," said Hofstra athletic director Jack Hayes.
Indeed, Jenkins (first profiled by ESPNNewYork.com in December) has had about as good a college basketball career as one can imagine. The 6-foot-3, 220-pound senior guard from Queens is now his school's all-time leading scorer, with 2,442 (and counting) career points.
He has won the Haggerty Award as the top player in the New York metropolitan area the past two seasons, was the Colonial Athletic Association's player of the year last season, and on Tuesday night moved into second place on the CAA's all-time scoring list, behind only NBA Hall of Famer David Robinson (Navy -- 2,669).
This season, Jenkins is currently No. 6 in the nation in scoring (23.3 points per game). But what's even more impressive is that he's done that while shooting 53.2 percent from the field -- no other player in the top 18 scorers in the country is shooting even 50 percent.
Better still? Jenkins doesn't just lead his conference in scoring, he also leads it in assists -- 4.8 per contest.
"He has sacrificed shots. He gets 22, 24 [points] with no problem -- he could get 33, 34 every night if he wanted to," said first-year Hofstra coach Mo Cassara. "He just doesn't take a lot of shots. He's taken the time, over the course of the year, and gone through a couple ups and down and a couple bad losses to develop some of the kids we needed to develop to help us win games."
Jenkins' unselfishness has paid off. A young and inexperienced team, under a brand-new coach, has blossomed into an NCAA Tournament contender. The Pride have won five of their past six, are currently 19-10 overall, and are tied for second place in the Colonial at 13-4 with one game to play.
"I need my teammates -- I'm not gonna win by myself," Jenkins said. "Come tournament time, I can't go in there and be a one-man show because teams are gonna key on me, and when I finally decide to use them it's gonna be the wrong time. I gotta keep my guys confident all season."
But Jenkins is getting his number retired on Saturday almost as much for the type of person he is off the court, as much as for his outstanding play on the court. Jenkins doesn't just go to every women's basketball game he can -- he's been a fixture all over campus throughout his time in Hempstead.
"He has been at black-tie events on campus, he is at sporting events of other sports all the time," Hayes said. "He participated this fall in a freshman student-athlete orientation -- he doesn't need to do that, and he did. He participated in it. And when you have your best and most visible student-athlete with a beach ball in his hand in front of men and women that have been in college for 10 days, it's a good thing to see.
"In 21 years in this business, he's gotten as much out of the college experience as anyone I've ever seen."
And yet, Jenkins thought he was in trouble when he was asked to come to Hayes' office for a meeting on Monday morning before practice.
"The first thing I thought was, what did I do wrong?" Jenkins said. "I thought something had happened."
The previous two times Jenkins had received such a summons, it was to inform him that his previous coach, Tom Pecora, was leaving Hofstra to go to Fordham -- and soon after, that Pecora's original replacement, Tim Welsh, was resigning because of a drunken driving arrest.
Hayes asked Jenkins to sit in the very same seat he'd sat in for those previous two meetings, and then delivered some good news for a change.
"It was a little shocking," Jenkins said. "I definitely didn't expect it. I always thought that it would happen one day, but not this soon. So it was definitely a great feeling."
It remains a big challenge for Hofstra to make the Big Dance this season, despite a high seed and a bye in the first round of its conference tournament. The other three top seeds -- George Mason, Old Dominion and Virginia Commonwealth -- are all good enough to be considered for at-large bids to the NCAA Tournament. And all three are located in Virginia, in close proximity to where the CAA tournament is held (Richmond).
But that will play out in March. Before February comes to close, Jenkins will have a day he will never forget, regardless of the outcome of the season.
"I think it makes it a bit more emotional, just because of what the number 22 represents," said Jenkins, who wears that number to honor his late brother Kareem, who died at the age of 22. "I'm gonna try to keep the emotions out of it -- we still got a game to play. I think it's gonna be a quick celebration. Once the ball goes up, it's gonna be another game."
Prediction: The Hofstra women's basketball team will be out in force, leading the cheers.