You hear the song every single year at the conclusion of the NCAA Tournament. It’s become a staple of the event, and perhaps one of its most signature and iconic parts if not its most.
“One shining moment, it’s all on the line. One shining moment, there frozen in time...”
In the rich history of the extravaganza that is March Madness, some moments have immortalized themselves more than others. When you hear the name Christian Laettner, you think of his epic shot against Kentucky in the 1992 Elite Eight. You hear the name Lorenzo Charles, and suddenly a memory of him hitting an alley oop “on the dot” runs through your mind alongside Jim Valvano. Tyus Edney, Keith Smart and Mario Chalmers. All of whom, and many more, are enshrined in NCAA Tournament lore forever.
As fate would have it, the door to immortality would be ajar in Houston this past April. Following a ridiculous double-clutch jumper by North Carolina Tar Heels star Marcus Paige that tied the game in the final seconds, the Villanova Wildcats were faced with a fork in the road on this elongated ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ thrill ride that began in Brooklyn and took them through Louisville and the Lone Star State’s biggest city.
They would either journey to overtime and try to fend off a ravenous Tar Heels club that had chipped away and then some at a large lead the Wildcats had built up. Or they would become champions.
Let’s go to the videotape.
Evidently, ‘Nova grew tired of the blitzkrieg they left in their wake on their half-cross country journey to Houston. In one final fell swoop, Kris Jenkins ripped off the final shot of the game, the season and the shot of his life. The ball blazed the net and with that, Villanova was the National Champion.
That Kris Jenkins was in this position was something marvelous. As the season wore on, Jenkins majorly improved. Nobody this side of now Providence’s Ben Bentil took as big of a leap that he did in his junior season. Often times, struggles in the second year are called “sophomore slumps.” Kris could get away with trademarking the “junior jump” because goodness did his play improve. He took several leaps in efficiency, was one of the best free throw shooters in the country and conference, as well as one of its best 3-point shooters as well. In the NCAA Tournament, Jenkins shot 15-for-29 from the 3-point line including the bomb that gave Villanova its first title since the ‘perfect game’ in 1985.
The question now as we head towards the start of the season is this: “What’s next?”
Jenkins will likely be a preseason All-Big East First Team selection once media day rolls around in October. He’s also likely going to be one of the strongest contenders for Big East Player of the Year and some of the toughest blockades in getting the award may come from his own team. Josh Hart and Jalen Brunson are two top-tier players in the conference and with the departures of Isaiah Whitehead, Kris Dunn, Roosevelt Jones, Kellen Dunham and Ben Bentil, the field is opened up and like the top spot in the conference, the road to getting the Player of the Year award is set to go through Philadelphia as well.
He could also fetch some votes for All-America teams as well from a national perspective. If Jenkins saves his best for last, could he be a National Player of the Year candidate as well? Maybe. It will be tough sledding as the field is full of talented players but it’s not outrageous to say that he could make a major impact in his senior year. After all, last year was ‘The Year of the Senior,’ so if he does save his best for last, Kris Jenkins could build up a case for when all is done and dusted.
It’s hard to figure that anything that comes next for Jenkins could be as great as what went down in his junior season. With his National Title-winning shot, he ascended himself up in the pantheon of greatness. Then again, who could have ever expected him to get to that point in the first place? From bell-to-bell, the ride Jenkins took in the 2015-16 season was almost as thrilling as the one that his team took part in en route to hoisting the trophy aloft back on April 4.
So maybe the best is yet to come for Villanova’s Kris Jenkins. If that’s indeed the case, watch out America. A star may turn into a supernova by season’s end.