Overlooked Daniss Jenkins has been key to success for St. John’s, Rick Pitino
OMAHA, Neb. The commitment was hardly big news. Three days after Rick Pitino lost Walter Clayton Jr. to Florida, he landed his Iona backcourt-mate Daniss Jenkins.
It barely moved the proverbial needle.
Unlike Clayton, the MAAC Player of the Year, Jenkins wasnt even selected to the mid-major conferences first team. Some wondered if he was good enough to be a lead guard in the Big East.
He was soon overshadowed by what were viewed as bigger additions such as Jordan Dingle from Penn, Chris Ledlum from Harvard and top-40 high school prospect Simeon Wilcher.
In hindsight, it seems silly, even preposterous that he was overlooked so much. Jenkins clearly has been the biggest addition Pitino made after taking the job. St. Johns offense, ranked 30th in efficiency, doesnt run smoothly without him. In fact, he was the Iona guard the Hall of Fame coach had to get.
3St. John’s guard Daniss Jenkins (5) shoots over Butler forward Jalen Thomas. Corey Sipkinfor the NY POST## see also
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Thats not a knock on Clayton, who is having a nice season as Floridas leading scorer, but St. Johns is having a better year than the Gators with less talent. It needed a point guard. It needed a leader. Jenkins, a fifth-year graduate transfer, is both.
After a slow start, he has exceeded everyones expectations but those belonging to him and Pitino. He has been as good as any point guard in the Big East, averaging 12.6 points on 42 percent shooting, 6.3 assists, 4.8 rebounds and only 1.6 turnovers over the last 12 games.
St. Johns (12-4, 4-1), off to its best start in league play since the 2000-01 season, has won 10 of those 12 contests entering Saturdays visit to No. 22 Creighton. His 6.1 assists on the season would be the most for a Johnnie since Omar Cook notched 8.7 in 2000-01, and his biggest weakness the 3-point shot has come along. Jenkins is shooting 37.5 percent in league play, up from his 25.5 percent mark during the non-conference.
In my opinion, Joel Soriano is their MVP, but Jenkins is the key to their success or lack of it, a Big East coach said, speaking on condition of anonymity. He uses his speed and tenacity at both ends of the floor. He does a good job of knowing when to get others involved and when to get his. Hes a maximum effort two-way player.
3St. John’s Red Storm head coach Rick Pitino reacts on the sideline during the second half. St. John’s Red Storm defeats the Providence Friars 75-73. Charles Wenzelberg / New York PostMy favorite quality of Jenkins is his fearlessness. He has ultra belief in his ability. Sometimes, that can lead to poor shots early in the shot clock, an area of his game that has improved of late.
Its a particular strength in difficult times.
He wants the ball in the clutch. He wants to be the guy making the big play. Youve seen it throughout the season. When the opponent is making a run, Jenkins looks to take command. It was evident in the win over Providence on Wednesday. When the Friars started the second half with a 16-2 run to take the lead, Jenkins was instrumental in the response, assisting on three layups and sinking a big 3-pointer to flip momentum.
In situations like that they were playing very hard around that time, they had a lot of energy, their fans were getting loud I just told the guys to take deep breaths, but now we have to fight fire with fire, Jenkins recalled. We cant let down. Its our turn to attack. That was my mindset, and I just tried to get everyone on the same page with that mindset.
Soriano is the captain and is probably this teams MVP, as the Big East coach suggested, but Jenkins is without a doubt one of St. Johns leaders. This really started in the spring and summer during team workouts.
3St. John’s Red Storm guard Daniss Jenkins #5 reacts after hitting a shot during the second half vs. Providence. Charles Wenzelberg / New York PostJenkins couldnt take part in them because he was still working to graduate from Iona and wasnt officially a member of the team yet, but that didnt matter. The 6-foot-4 Texan wanted to be around. He took it upon himself to get to know his new teammates and allow them to get to know him. With that in mind, Jenkins organized activities off the court, including a bowling outing. It had to be more than just basketball for a brand new team to excel.
Since DJ got here, we just got to know each other more, we hang out, get food together, Soriano said. I feel like Ive known him for years; it feels like hes my blood brother. Theres nothing I wouldnt do for him, and theres nothing I wouldnt do for all 14 guys on my team.
Jenkins called himself an annoying little brother, in regards to his relationship with Soriano. Similar to Pitino, hes always pushing the star center because he thinks there is more Soriano can give, as strong of a season as the big man may be having.
Thats my job, Jenkins said. As the point guard, Im supposed to make everybody around me better.
Throughout the fall, Pitino told everyone that Jenkins was his best player at both ends of the floor, the one guy he could count on to consistently create for others and bring it on the defensive end. Some took that as a knock on the talent level of the rest of the team. It wasnt.
For what it needed, St. Johns got the right guard from Iona.
Freshman Brady Dunlap (ankle) is questionable to play on Saturday, according to a source. He sustained the injury in the second half against Providence.
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