Brotherly battle between Jenkins, Britt for national title
HOUSTON >> Kris Jenkins and Nate Britt, brothers in every way except blood, are giving each other the silent treatment for about 48 hours.
Maybe they will exchange a "good luck" or a fist bump before Jenkins and Villanova (34-5) face Britt and North Carolina (33-6) on Monday night in the NCAA Tournament championship game. Otherwise, "Nah," Jenkins said, "no talking."
It's the biggest competition yet between a couple guys who grew up trying to beat each other in everything. While the Wildcats-Tar Heels matchup might be a no-lose situation for the Britt family, for the players involved there will definitely be only one winner.
"Whoever wins the game, obviously the other one is going to be hurt and going to feel bad," Britt said. "That'll be permanent bragging rights for the rest of our lives."
Jenkins and Britt met as 10-year-olds playing AAU basketball in the Washington D.C. area. Eventually, Jenkins started playing for a team coached by Britt's father and spending lots of time at the Britts' home — especially when Jenkins' mother, Felicia, was spending almost all of her time at the hospital with her ailing infant daughter. Kori was 11 months old when she died.
When Felicia Jenkins, a former college basketball player, got a job coaching at Benedict College in Columbia, South Carolina, she felt it would be best for Kris to stay with the Britts in Maryland permanently. In 2007, the Britts became Jenkins' legal guardians.
"It's been the greatest decision that's ever happened in my life," Jenkins said.
Villanova coach Jay Wright said Britt, not Jenkins, was his priority when he took a recruiting visit to the Britt home.
"We liked Kris, but we thought he's overweight and he's not going to do all the stuff we do," Wright said.
But the 6-foot-6 Jenkins, who weighed as much as 280 pounds back in high school, liked what he heard from Wright. He ended up committing to Villanova, and dropping 40 pounds, and Britt chose North Carolina.
When the Tar Heels and Wildcats played each other in the first round of the 2013 NCAA Tournament, Jenkins and Britt watched the game together, rooting for their future schools — and not talking to each other. They trash texted each other and didn't even sit on the same couch.
"That was fun," Britt said. North Carolina won 78-71.
The Britts have spent the past few weeks bouncing around the country watching their sons play. Last weekend, they managed to attend all four Elite Eight games, two in Philadelphia (where North Carolina played) and two in Louisville (were Villanova played). Jenkins even attended North Carolina's East Regional championship victory against Notre Dame.
Nate Britt, the 6-1 guard who averages 5.5 points off the bench, said he does not know which section his parents and sister will be sitting Monday night.
"I tried to ask them how they would remain neutral, what they would wear, but they didn't tell me," Britt said.
Jenkins, second on Villanova in scoring (13.5 per game), remains close with his birth parents. He says he has two families. And he roots for North Carolina all the time. Well, almost.
"I do hope he plays well," Jenkins said. "I hope he's injury free and things like that. But there's nobody in the world I want to beat more than my brother."
Some things to watch for when Villanova plays North Carolina in the NCAA Tournament for the seventh time (the Tar Heels are 5-1).
Both teams like to play with two point guards on the floor at once. For Villanova, it's senior Ryan Arcidiacono and freshman Jalen Brunson. For North Carolina, it's senior Marcus Paige and sophomore Joel Berry II.
"It's always good to have multiple ball handlers and creators out there," Paige said. "You saw last night against the (Syracuse) zone, Joel was able to penetrate the gaps and I was able to knock down some shots. And other nights I have a matchup where I can get in the paint and create things. And Villanova does the same thing with Brunson and Arcidiacono."
Villanova's only national championship was one of the most famous upsets in the history of not just the NCAA Tournament, but in all of American sports. The 1985 Wildcats upset Patrick Ewing and Georgetown in the final with a near perfect performance.
"It's something we're always reminded of," Brunson said.
Wildcats coach Rollie Massimino, 81, told USA Today Sports that he planned to attend Monday night's game. He lives in Florida.
North Carolina coach Roy Williams can make history by becoming the sixth coach with at least three NCAA titles. He would match Bobby Knight and Jim Calhoun with three, and surpass his mentor and former North Carolina coach, the late Dean Smith.
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