Horace Jenkins may not even have dressed for the Detroit Pistons playoff final series with San Antonio last season, but for Hapoel Jerusalem's new point guard the experience was the peak of his unusual career.
"I may not have got the chance to show what I am capable of, but I played for the NBA champion and I will remember that experience for the rest of my life," the 30-year-old rookie said at the time.
After averaging 2.8 points per game with the NBA's Detroit Pistons, in 15 appearances, Jenkins will be earning a cool half a million dollars with Hapoel this season, but the fact that he's even earning a penny as a professional ballplayer is a minor miracle.
Jenkins' hoop dreams took a huge detour in 1992 when he became ineligible to play for his high school team in Elizabeth, New Jersey, because of poor grades. The following season he played at a small New Jersey two-year college and averaged 20.6 points a game. A combination of falling grades and the birth of his son Hakim, made him decide to leave school and organized basketball and go work to support his family.
For the next five years Jenkins worked at various jobs: garbage disposal, pumping gas, as a postal clerk and an electrician. His only connection with basketball was on the playgrounds of Newark, New Jersey.
Jenkins' life started turning around one night seven years ago while playing in a summer league game in Newark's Branch Brook Park. Jose Rebimbas, the coach of tiny William Patterson University in Wayne, New Jersey, came expecting little, and basically to watch a player who had enrolled at Patterson for the following year. Instead, he saw Jenkins, a totally unknown player with NBA ability.
Jenkins was recruited by Rebimbas and played three years at William Patterson, a Division III school, which is among the lowest ranks of college basketball. His final season he averaged 27.2 points and was named the Division III player of the year in each of his three seasons there. Jenkins' blazing speed, ability to score all over the court and general athleticism placed on the NBA radar screen.
At 27, an age where many NBA players have completed one multi-year contract and have started on a second, Jenkins was entering the NBA draft. His downfall was skills that don't match the physical attributes necessary for the NBA game. Basically a shooting guard in a point guard's body, Jenkins was asked to demonstrate playmaking skills he had never been called upon to develop in college.
Jenkins went undrafted and began his professional career at Borgomanero in Italy's second division, averaging 30 points a game for the 2001-2 season.
In the summer of 2002, then-Maccabi Tel Aviv head coach David Blatt was so attracted to the high voltage of the former electrician's game that he was Blatt's number one choice to replace Ariel McDonald. Eventually though Jenkins would continue his European career with Virtus Roma and AEK Athens and McDonald would be succeeded by Beno Udrih, today with NBA champion San Antonio Spurs.
Jenkins will team in Hapoel Jerusalem's backcourt with another former NBA player, Roger Mason Jr. His crowd-pleasing style of play should bring plenty of excitement to the capital.
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