By Jake Brown
I received my Bachelor of Arts from Hofstra University in 2013. There were plenty of memories there, but none that will stand out more than getting to watch the greatest player to ever wear a Pride uniform. That man would be Charles Jenkins. I had the pleasure of having the Hofstra legend in studio with me on SportsTalk1240 on AM1240-WGBB in New York.
Jenkins has an intriguing story that is still being written. The 26-year-old has had plenty of remarkable moments in his career. He is Hofstra’s all-time leading scorer. He’s second all-time in scoring in CAA history, behind “The Admiral” David Robinson. He’s a two-time CAA Player of the Year, a three-time Haggerty Award winner. a Chip Hilton Player of the Year Award winner, and his No. 22 is in the rafters at Hofstra. Jenkins is a Hofstra legend and was one of best scorers in the nation. He couldn’t get Hofstra over the hump in the CAA Tournament, though.
“My one regret is never making the NCAA Tournament,” Jenkins said. “I never won anything for the school. That’s something I wish I had done.”
Jenkins chose Hofstra over St. John’s and Liberty. He knew from day one that it would be a four year progression to work his way to the next level. Being there for the long run and getting a degree was essential for the Queens product.
“The reason I value education so much is because of my dad,” said Jenkins.
Another member of Jenkins’ family that had a huge influence on his life was his brother, who tragically passed away when Charles was just 12.
“It killed me. I lost my role model. But to have an older brother and there’s not much of a difference in your age. Losing him was hard. I lost him in 2001. I was in eighth grade,” Jenkins said. “I remember not going to school for two weeks and coming back and not caring about anything. I didn’t care about anything but basketball. The timing was so bad. Once he was gone, I didn’t do anything in school. He had a daughter, my niece. That was my only concern when I was young.”
After having a remarkable college career in Hempstead, Jenkins would take his talents to the NBA. The 6’3″ guard was projected a first round pick, but fell to the second round, landing with the Golden State Warriors at 44. Jenkins would not sign with them until December due to the NBA lockout in 2011 that shortened the season from 82 to 66 games. Despite the shortened season and being a rookie, Jenkins would get a chance to play because of Stephen Curry missing extended time with an ankle injury. The Hofstra alum played in 51 games and started 28, averaging 5.8 PPG and 3.3 APG in 17.5 MPG.
When Curry returned in the 2012-2013 season and the Warriors brought in Jarrett Jack, that chance to play was essentially taken away from Jenkins. From playing almost every night and getting the chance to start to playing just six minutes a game. It was something he had never truly faced in his career.
“The NBA is a business at the end of the day,” Jenkins said. “You’re as good as your opportunity. My opportunity my first year was great.”
Jenkins was traded to the Philadelphia 76ers before the trade deadline. He wouldn’t get much playing time there, appearing in 12 games and starting one, averaging just 2.5 PPG. It’s all about the opportunity and both his spots in his second season didn’t work out. Unfortunately, he wasn’t re-signed and no other teams came calling. A talented player and a good teammate found himself in an unexpected predicament.
That’s where everything would change and a new chapter would begin overseas. Jenkins would sign with Crvena Zvezda in Serbia.
“I always say that they saved me. Finishing my second year pro I didn’t have many places to go,” Jenkins said. “I didn’t have a list of teams I had to choose from. Serbia was a place that looked out for me. I had one team in Italy and another team somewhere else but I remember Red Star coming in and expressing how much interest they had in me. It changed my career.”
From a standout in college to playing behind one of the NBA’s best players to heading to Europe to play for Serbia. While the money in Serbia wasn’t the same as the NBA, it was an opportunity for Jenkins to learn and to adapt to a new situation. Two championships and two cups later in Serbia, Jenkins said some would die for him over there.
“A lot of people think about the NBA and if you don’t play here, you’re a failure,” he said. “I was able to go into a culture where they took me in as their brother. You hear people when they talk to me they call me King, they call me Master, they call me their Brother, they call me their Son. People really care about me there. They know how much I feel about them. The feeling is definitely the same. Serbia is a small place but everyone’s family.”
Jenkins has become a basketball god in Serbia. After two years there, Jenkins will now embark on a new journey overseas. He’s heading to Italy to play for Olimpia Milano, which is arguably the best Italian team. It was a deal the guard couldn’t refuse. Money is a huge part of it of course, but it’s a bigger stage for Jenkins to showcase his talents. He signed a one-year deal with a second-year option as he continues to work his way back to a potential return to the NBA. Summer League has been offered to him multiple times, but that wasn’t even a consideration for him. He wants to be on a NBA roster, not competing with 15 players for one spot.
“It has to be the right situation for me,” Jenkins said. “It can’t be a shot in the dark opportunity. It has to be guaranteed.”
The point guard is not sure yet whether he will start in Italy, but is ready for the challenge ahead. What is he looking forward to most heading there?
“A change in culture,” said Jenkins. “It’s always good to be in Europe and compare your culture to the way you do things to the way things are done in other places.”
The season will begin in October for Olimpia Milano. It’s been a roller coaster ride for the guy who was accustomed to draining clutch shots at Hofstra and one that led his Serbian teammates to the promised land. It’s a true grind playing overseas, and many players are forgotten once they head over there. The strong work ethic, dedication, and talent can undoubtedly bring Jenkins back to the states for a NBA return. Stay tuned.
Jake Brown is the Digital Program Manager at CBS Sports Radio and a columnist for CBS Sports Radio, CBS Local Sports, and CBS Local. He previously hosted Brown and Troupe and 4th & Goal with JB & BT with former NFL tight end Ben Troupe on Play.it, iTunes, and CBSLocalSports.com and will be announcing a new podcast soon. Jake lives in Queens, NY and has struggled living the life of a Mets, Knicks, and Jets fan.