Vanderbilt's Jenkins is an efficient, deadly shooter

jtipton@herald-leader.comFebruary 23, 2012 

LSU Vanderbilt Basketball

JOHN JENKINS 6-4 junior guard, Vanderbilt. Per-game averages: 19.5 points, 3.0 rebounds 1.1 assists, 0.9 steals, 0.3 blocks, 1.8 turnovers. Shooting percentages: 47.7 field goals, 43.8 three-pointers, 84.0 free throws.

MARK HUMPHREY — AP

  • Vanderbilt at KentuckyWhen: Saturday, noon | TV: CBS-27

Vanderbilt guard John Jenkins has become synonymous with perimeter shooting. He gets his shot off quickly. He shoots accurately. To borrow a basketball phrase, he's not a "high-volume" shooter. That is, he does not need to take a lot of shots to score a lot of points.

What's left to ponder?

Earlier this week, Georgia's Mark Fox called Jenkins the best shooter he's coached against.

"He needs (only) the smallest of cracks in the clouds to make the sun shine," Fox said.

No doubt, Vandy and Jenkins will hope a garish sun blinds Kentucky in Rupp Arena on Saturday. UK will try to deny Jenkins many wide-open looks at the basket. (Cue Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, who limited Mississippi State's Dee Bost to 1-for-6 second-half shooting on Tuesday?)

Kentucky learned the hard way what Jenkins can do. He scored a career-high 32 points in Vandy's home win against UK last season.

In the two meetings since, UK made Jenkins work for his 15.5 point average. He made 10 of 24 shots (5-for-14 from three-point range) in those games.

Kentucky fans might want to debate whether Jenkins is the Southeastern Conference's best shooter. Doron Lamb has made a higher percentage of three-point attempts (48.6 percent versus Jenkins' 44.5).

Jenkins, who as a junior has played one more season, has taken more than twice as many shots from beyond the arc.

That might be considered ironic since he's known as a selective shooter, not a gunner.

"He's not a high-volume guy," South Carolina Coach Darrin Horn said of Jenkins. "He's incredibly efficient in what he does, and he's improved his game. Every year it seems he shoots better on the move, off a shot fake and he doesn't really force things."

Vandy (20-8, 9-4 in the SEC) depends on Jenkins. He led the league in scoring last season (19.5 ppg) and again leads this season (20.1). In the past 20 years, only one player has led the league in scoring back-to-back seasons: Ronnie Henderson of LSU in 1994-95 and 1995-96.

Jenkins averages 12.9 shots, or about three more than Lamb (9.2), who plays on UK's balanced attack.

"A lot of guys in that position do it by (thinking) any shot is a good shot," Horn said. "... And he makes big ones, as well. That's what makes him special."

Vandy Coach Kevin Stallings has noted Jenkins' improvement. As with many good shooters (Chris Lofton comes immediately to mind), he's tried to add drives to the basket to his game. In the past three games, Jenkins has attempted 27 free throws.

However, Fox sounded eager to concede Jenkins a drive toward the basket even if, in theory, it would make the player harder to defend.

"You're praying he drives it," the Georgia coach said. "Because he's just so lethal with the three. He's a next-level player, there's no question about it. He shoots better than a lot of guys playing at the next level."

Jim Spanarkel, the former Duke star who will help call the Vandy-UK game for CBS, noted Jenkins' efficiency as a shooter. Having not yet seen Jenkins play other than on television, Spanarkel said he was eager to be an eyewitness to better appraise the Vandy guard's shooting ability.

Playing with the U,S. team in the World University Games last summer helped make Jenkins a better defender, Stallings noted. The Vandy coach qualified Jenkins' improvement as a scorer as a byproduct of greater team cohesion.

"Maybe our other guys are doing a better job of figuring out he and (Jeffery) Taylor need the ball as much as possible in good spots," Stallings said, "and maybe been a little more committed to getting them the ball or getting them open."

It all boils down to basketball's most elemental act: Putting the ball into the basket. In that, Jenkins excels.

"He's ready to catch and shoot at all times," Tennessee Coach Cuonzo Martin said before adding, "He's constantly moving. The team does a good job getting him shots and looking for him. When the shot goes up, when you're defending him, it's tough to go to the glass. You have to identify him all the time."

Jerry Tipton: (859) 231-3227. Twitter: @JerryTipton. Blog: ukbasketball.bloginky.com

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