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Springfield Gdns’ Jenkins embraces leadership with Pride

Photo courtesy Hofstra Athletic Communications. Charles Jenkins is averaging 23.6 points per game, good for 11th in the country among Division I players.
By Five Boro Sports

HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. — One of Tom Pecora’s first decisions this season was also his easiest.

The Pride coach didn’t think twice to name Charles Jenkins, the youngest member of the team, as the squad’s captain for the 2008-09 season.

“He’s a sophomore, but he’s wise beyond his years,” Pecora said of the 19-year-old from Springfield Gardens. “He’s our best player and he’s one of our hardest workers. That’s an automatic.”

About as automatic as Jenkins has been since he arrived on Hofstra’s campus two years ago. The powerful 6-foot-3 guard has emerged from the shadows of the guard triumvirate of Antoine Agudio, Loren Stokes and Carlos Rivera to be the face of the Pride.

“It’s a great feeling,” Jenkins said of the captaincy. “My coaches always tell me that they were confident in me, but them naming me captain — that shows me a lot.”

Last season’s Colonial Athletic Association Rookie of the Year is averaging 23.6 points per game, good for 11th in the nation. He also leads the 5-1 Pride in assists per game (3.6) and is fourth with 5.2 rebounds per game.

“He does what it takes to win a game,” Pecora said. “He’s had nights when he goes and gets rebounds for us, he can lock guys up. He’s a very well rounded basketball player and good for us, he’s only a sophomore.”

Jenkins’ versatility, and hsis leadership, was on showcase Wednesday night in a 60-40 win against Fordham at the Mack Sports Complex. Rams Coach Dereck Whittenburg told his team to concentrate on Jenkins, to take away his ability to penetrate.

As will likely be the case often this season, Jenkins saw a box-and-one defense and the former Springfield Gardens standout shot just 1-of-5 from the field in the first half.

“I just wanted to limit his opportunities and make him take a lot of [jump] shots,” Whittenburg said. “I know he’s a great player and I know we couldn’t contain him, but I just didn’t want him to get in the lane and create.”

Instead of forcing shots, though, Jenkins got his teammates involved. He found Zygis Sestokas in the corner for open three-pointers and kicked the ball inside to Greg Washington, who recorded his first double-double.

When it was over, Jenkins still had 11 points, extending his streak of double-figure scoring to 21 straight games and 33 of his 35 career games at Hofstra. But it was his career-high nine assists that were critical in the Pride’s victory.

“When they decided to go box-and-one on me, I was able to go to four other guys on the floor instead of just relying on one person,” Jenkins said. “There’s four other guys on the floor and about eight other guys on the bench. It’s not just going to come from me, it’s going to come from the team.”

That’s the mantra at Hofstra this year after Agudio, the program’s all-time leading scorer, graduated last May.

“I think we have greater balance, we’re more talented,” Pecora said. “I think we’ll be a team that has four or maybe five guys averaging in double figures and I’d much rather coach a team like that than a team that’s one-dimensional.”

Jenkins, too, is far from one-dimensional. He can shoot from outside, is strong enough to battle on the boards, quick enough to get into the lane and he has some intangibles that do not show up on the box score.

“We try to find kids who are gym rats and it’s not that easy anymore,” Pecora said. “He’s one of them. He comes back at night and shoots. He lives in this place.”

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