Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
TARRYTOWN, N.Y. — Looking out into a banquet room full of people Tuesday night at the Westchester Marriott, Charles Jenkins asked that his 11-year-old niece, Kemoni Albritton, stand and be recognized.
“I want her to stand up so everybody can see the pretty dress she’s wearing tonight,” Jenkins, honored as only the third three-time winner of the Haggerty Award, told the crowd in what was perhaps the most touching moment of the night.
Kareem Albritton, Jenkins’ older brother and Kemoni’s father, was shot and killed in Brooklyn in 2001. Ever since, Jenkins’ parents, Charles and Patricia, have helped raise the girl.
But with the 6-foot-3 Jenkins projected to be taken in the upcoming NBA Draft, one of his primary motivations is to provide financial security for his niece.
“The thought of my niece not eating was definitely a motivation for me to wake up and push every day,” Jenkins said. “She’s going to be with me every step of the way.”
Jenkins led the Pride and was sixth nationally in scoring at 22.6 points per game. He shot 52 percent from the floor, 42 percent from beyond the arc and 82 percent from the line. He finished his career with a school-record 2,513 points, second in Colonial Athletic Association history to David Robinson. He was named the CAA Player of the Year and had his No. 22 jersey retired by the school.
DraftExpress.com projects him going as the No. 36 overall pick, No. 6 in the second round, to the Sacramento Kings in the June 23 NBA Draft.
Jenkins, who came out of Springfield Gardens High in Queens, would be the first New York City public school graduate taken since Lincoln’s Sebastian Telfair in 2004.
A lifelong New Yorker, Jenkins said he would like to play for the Knicks, who pick at No. 17 and are in need of defensive-minded big men and shooters. They have no second-round pick.
“I would definitely love to stay here,” Jenkins said of the Knicks. “I’m definitely a New York guy. I’ve never traveled outside of New York for school so it would definitely be a great place for me.”
Jenkins watched the Knicks get swept by the Boston Celtics and said he empathized with the injured Amar’e Stoudemire (back) and Chauncey Billups (knee).
“I think they were hurt with a lot of injuries and as far as Chauncey Billups, he was a big impact,” Jenkins said, referring to the fact that Billups missed the last three games of the series with a strained left knee. “You could actually see why they lost the way they did because of his presence.”
Jenkins has been training with Hofstra alumnus Jay Hernandez for the past three weeks on Long Island. He works on strength and conditioning at Professional Athletic Performance Center in Garden City.
“I’m very excited,” Jenkins said. “I’ve put in a tremendous amount of hours on my game and for me to have that opportunity [to play in the NBA] it’s just great. There’s so may players in the world that go in the gym and work out every day, just to get the opportunity that I have.”
Hofstra coach Mo Cassara, who spent just one season with Jenkins, said he’s especially impressed with his work ethic.
“He’s worked so hard,” Cassara said. “Every level he’s been through, even throughout his college career, he’s gotten a little better every year. He was Player of the Year in the league last year, came back, was Player of the Year, led the league in scoring and assists.
“He’s working incredibly hard now. He’s lost almost 11 pounds [down to 225], cut down his body fat. He looks great, he’s working hard. He’s such a powerful guard and he’s such a great kid and works so hard, I think there’s going to be a lot of teams out there interested in him.”
Jenkins’ agent, Michael Lindeman, attended the dinner with the Jenkins’ family and said it was still too early to judge which teams might draft him.
“It’s early in the process,” he said. “Workouts will start around mid-May and that’s when you really get a better idea. Obviously, plenty of teams have seen him throughout the year, and there are very positive things to be said about him right now.’
Of course, the NBA could be headed for a lockout the week after the draft if the two sides cannot agree on a new collective bargaining agreement by the time the old one expires June 30.
“From all accounts, on the outside looking it it looks like we’re heading in that direction,” Billups said this week. “I’ll have to see what’s going on, if it can be salvaged or not. It’s a lot of unbelievable issues out there that I don’t know if they can be solved in a couple months.”
Yet with the NFL lockout lifted this week, Lindeman said he’s hopeful that could have an affect on the NBA.
“Nobody really knows,” he said. “It’s something that doesn’t look very good right now. But everybody’s still optimistic. Hopefully, with the recent situation in the NFL, that could pave the way for them to come to an agreement.”
From where Jenkins stands, all of the labor stuff will sort itself out after June 23, when he hopes to be drafted and be in a position to provide for his young niece for the rest of her life.
“I know Charles’ underlying focus is to be able to take care of his niece throughout the rest of her life,” Cassara said. “Obviously, playing professional basketball can help him do that.”
(Photo courtesy Hofstra Athletics)
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Adam Zagoria is a New York Times contributor and Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.