By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay
Jordyn Jenkins has always loved it when she could win a foot race on the basketball court, and with her speed, she was doing just that at an early age.
“It’s kind of funny,” she said. “On my old AAU team, in, like, maybe in middle school, I always ran the floor because that was the easiest way to get a layup.”
Jenkins continued to run past people in high school and in her first few years at Southern Cal. Now, the 6-foot forward from Kent, Wash., has turned that speed into an important part of her repertoire with the UTSA Roadrunners.
It’s part of the reason that Jenkins has drawn Conference USA Player of the Year consideration for individual awards that will be announced today.
“Honestly, I like being faster than people,” said Jenkins, who’s in her first year at UTSA. “I like being first at things and being better.”
Combine her determination and natural speed with the ability to finish at the rim with either hand, and you have a player that is leading the C-USA in scoring (21.1) and field goal percentage (49.4) heading into the postseason tournament.
You also have a player that has led a traditionally downtrodden team to four straight wins and a 7-3 record in the second half of the conference’s 20-game schedule.
Though Jenkins’ off-hand skill has been entertaining as she’s befuddled defenders going to her left, it’s been even more eye-opening to see a post player run past guards in transition.
In fact, some of her best games this season — 40 points and 11 rebounds at North Texas, 37 and 11 at UTEP and 35 and 10 at Houston — have been instigated when she would leak out behind the defense and would take a long pass to score on a running layup.
UTSA coach Karen Aston has known Jenkins since high school, and even the coach has been somewhat surprised to see her crank up the speed.
“You know, her ability to get from one rim to the other is really, really special,” Aston said.
Jenkins laughed when told that Aston wasn’t fully aware of the impact she could have as a scorer in the transition game.
“Maybe I wasn’t running in high school,” she said.
If she wins the Player of the Year honor in the C-USA, it won’t surprise Aston.
“I mean, I’ll be real surprised if she doesn’t get it,” the coach said. “When you look at her numbers, they’re pretty staggering. Her performances have been worthy of the award.”
Jenkins is also second in the conference in rebounding (7.5) and fifth in blocked shots (1.2).
If she’s not Player of the Year, UTSA’s record of 11-18 overall and 9-11 in the conference might be the only reason.
“I don’t think we should take offense if she doesn’t get it,” Aston said. “But I’m not going to be surprised if she does.”
If the award goes to someone else, Jenkins said she won’t necessarily be disappointed.
“My whole life, I’ve never really been into awards,” she said. “Probably because most of the time, I haven’t really got any. I’ve always been on the back of that. You know, I’m grateful for whatever. It’s just about how you perform.”
Wednesday’s openers at Frisco
Women — (8) FIU vs. (9) Charlotte, 11 a.m.; (7) North Texas vs. (10) UAB, 1:30 p.m.; (6) UTSA vs. (11) FAU, 2 p.m.
Men — (8) Western Kentucky vs. (9) UTEP, 5:30 p.m.; (7) FIU vs. (10) Louisiana Tech, 8 p.m.; (6) Rice vs. (11) UTSA, 8:30 p.m.
Seedings in parentheses