As the NBA G-League continues to expand in terms of talent and teams included, we are in a position to learn some great stories along the way. This is a league, which at one point was often looked down upon, is gaining serious traction in the basketball world. And a huge part of that comes from having the likes of John Jenkins, who play their hardest every night.
If the name “John Jenkins”, sounds familiar to you then it’s for good reason. The University of Vanderbilt product was a first-round pick in the 2012 NBA Draft and bounced around the league five seasons via his stints in Atlanta, Dallas, and Phoenix. And while Jenkins did make another return to the G-League in February of 2017, it was his following season that made the biggest difference in his career.
Last season, the 6-foot-4 guard played overseas for the first time as a member of the San Pablo Burgos, a Liga ACB team based in Spain. In 22 appearances, Jenkins would not only average 12 PPG, but he became more confident and emerged as a leader. Those same traits even translated to Jenkins’ sudden success with the Portland Trail Blazers, as he played a vital role in helping them win the NBA Summer League championship this past summer.
So in a nutshell, it really shouldn’t surprise anyone that Jenkins is having one heck of a season in Westchester. Following the Knicks’ first nine games, Jenkins is averaging 28, 4, and 3 while shooting a ridiculous 51%-50%-95% from the field. I had the chance to speak with Jenkins after the Knicks defeated the Long Island Nets on Tuesday night.
Arden: How would you describe how you’re feeling at this point of the season?
John Jenkins: I feel great, honestly. It’s always good to win, especially when you beat a undefeated team that has a few NBA caliber players. So to beat them at home was much needed.
A: When you have the kind of rhythm established, that a scorer like yourself has, is it even describable?
J: I mean, it’s such a great zone to be in and I don’t ever want to leave it (laughs). And even though, I had a tough first half, my coach and teammates told me to keep shooting and I stuck with it. That’s the kind of confidence, you need to have when playing on this level. I know, I work hard on my craft and with that knowledge, I remain confident in my shot and know I’ll get a few to go in. Fortunately, it happened in the second half.
A: During your tenure in Westchester, you’ve seen a lot of things and played in some meaningful games. How much of a difference is made when playing here?
J: It’s a huge one because it feels like home. Even though playing in Spain was good, this has been incredible. I think, I played in 16 games during my first stint here (2016-’17), but I met some really good guys and despite our struggles, we played in a few good games towards the season’s end. So when I look at where we’re at now, with this streak and some quality wins, I’m excited and want to keep it up.
A: As a veteran who’s played in the NBA for a few years, what are your biggest pieces of advice to the new players?
J: Well on the first day of training camp, I brought everybody in and gave them copies of Kobe Bryant’s new book. I actually read it in one day because it’s incredible and has many lessons, not only about basketball but in life. There are many things that will help them with their careers and with me being the old guy (laughs) at 27-years-old, these guys who are 20 or 21-years-old can learn a lot from me and one of the greatest to ever play this game in Kobe.
A: Should the sudden growth of the G-League encourage more players who want to pursue their NBA dreams?
J: Oh, absolutely. This league has gotten so much better since I arrived in Westchester two years ago. The two-way contracts weren’t around back then and with the number of players that are assigned here, you are going to face at least three-four NBA caliber players every night. This league is incredible and you have to be up for the challenge every night. It’s not meant to make you comfortable and you will be challenged a lot.