Gonzaga's sophomore trio goes the distance together
Thursday, February 24, 2011; 1:55 AM
The rugged 6-foot-6 forward with a delicate shooting touch is from rural South Carolina, the son of a college basketball coach. The lanky swingman with sensational athletic ability grew up in Seattle, the son of a former NFL running back. Of sixth-ranked Gonzaga's three sophomore stars, only point guard Nate Britt has a rather ordinary backstory.
Coming together from various parts of the country, though, Britt, Kris Jenkins and D.J. Fenner have provided the Eagles with an unusual amount of talent and leadership for such a young group of players as they try to take their team to the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference title.
"They all have an opportunity to be high Division I basketball players," said Gonzaga Coach Steve Turner, whose team will host a WCAC quarterfinal on Friday against either St. Mary's Ryken or Bishop Ireton.
Asked who is recruiting each player, Turner quickly responded, "Who isn't?"
Virginia Tech and Xavier have offered scholarships to Britt and Jenkins. Georgetown and Miami also have offered Britt and plenty of others are recruiting both players. Fenner's list is a bit different, with many top teams in the Pacific-10 Conference keeping tabs.
With three top young players - all of whom repeated a grade at an elite middle school in Bethesda, where they never lost a football or basketball game - Gonzaga figures to be among the Washington area's best teams for the next two years. (Another sophomore, guard Charles Glover, also starts for the Eagles; he too repeated a year in middle school.) Together, the sophomores have led the Eagles (22-6) to 15 victories in their past 17 games.
"They're pretty good," quipped one opposing coach, "for juniors."
Fenner, a slender 6-6 and 207 pounds, grew up on the other side of the country, moved to the Washington area to live with his grandparents and attend middle school, then returned to Seattle as a high school freshman last year. This summer, though, he and his father, Derrick - a former Oxon Hill High standout football player who spent nine seasons in the NFL - moved back across the country to live with Derrick Fenner's parents in Springdale.
Jenkins grew up in Norway, S.C., and was in fifth grade when he met Britt at an AAU tournament.
"You know how it is when you play against a really good team and you become cool with their best player," said Britt, a 6-1 guard who plays with plenty of poise.
Jenkins spent the next summer living with the Britts in Upper Marlboro so that he and Nate Britt could play for the same travel team.
While Jenkins returned to South Carolina for the following school year, his parents soon were discussing having Kris move in with the Britts.