Charles Jenkins is still only a junior, but his resume at Hofstra is already one of the finest in school history. The CAA Rookie of the Year two years ago…the Haggerty Award winner as the best player in the metro area last year…the superstar-defining moment against Northeastern last week…on pace to shatter the school’s all-time scoring record…and now, as of last night, the CAA Player of the Year.
There’s only one thing missing from his legacy, and Jenkins would love nothing more than to add it this weekend, with a year to spare. “I’ve never won a championship before—high school or here,” Jenkins said after practice Wednesday. “That would be something big—for all of us, for the program, for Hofstra to get back to the NCAAs. That’s something I really want to do.”
Winning the CAA Tournament seemed inconceivable—at least this season—back when the Flying Dutchmen stumbled to a 2-7 start in conference play. But the Dutchmen produced a historic second half run, going 8-1 in the second half of the CAA schedule and 9-1 in their final 10 games overall thanks largely to the efforts of Jenkins, who averaged 25.9 points per game over that span to emerge from the Player of the Year pack and turn the race into a rout.
“[The slow start] was very rough for us—it was especially rough on me as a leader, I felt like I was letting my team down,” Jenkins said. “But after this turnaround, it’s felt great. Our young guys really picked it up, they’ve been playing every possession as hard as they can. Our veterans got together, we got back to defending and rebounding and running and we’ve all been on the same page. That’s how we’ve been able to click for this last month.
“I knew once we got healthy we’d be able to turn it around, but I didn’t expect it to go this far.”
Now he wants to go much further in the CAA Tournament than the Dutchmen did in his first two seasons. Jenkins’ first tournament experience was over almost before it began as the Dutchmen scored just 13 first half points in a lopsided loss to Towson.
Last year was better and worse, all at the same time: The Dutchmen routed UNC Wilmington in the first round and battled Old Dominion in the best game of the tournament in the quarterfinals, but Jenkins’ classic duel with Gerald Lee ended when his shot at the buzzer fell well short in a 52-51 loss to the Monarchs.
“Greg Washington, Nat Lester, Cornelius Vines, Mikey Szabo—we all have an understanding of how it feels to go down there and come back home because we lost by one point,” Jenkins said. “My freshman year, we lost by  and it was different. Us going down there and being that close against Old Dominion has more of an effect on us. We want to share it with the freshmen, let them know it’s very serious down there.”
He also wants to remind the freshmen that the Dutchmen needed to hit a last-second shot because of their sloppy play all afternoon. The Dutchmen squandered an 11-point first half lead against the Monarchs, shot just 35 percent from the field, missed seven of 18 free throws and were outrebounded 46-34.
“It’s easy to blame it on me missing the last shot, but possessions earlier in the game happened that could have prevented me from even getting to that,” Jenkins said. “Free throws, missed defensive assignments, things like that. Rebounding, not letting them get extra shots. Things like that matter at tournament time, because every possession is important.”
As all six Loyal Readers know, Jenkins has the soul of a middle-aged assistant coach, so he’s in full-on one-game-at-a-time mode as the Dutchmen prepare for Georgia State tonight. But not so deep down, he’s a freshly minted 21-year-old who can’t help but think about what it’d be like to be one of the last two teams standing Monday night, battling for the CAA title on national TV.
“I thought about that last night [while watching] a high school game where St. Mary’s won the championship,” Jenkins said. “That’s a feeling I want to bring to this university—being in the last game, and not just being there, but winning. That would be big.”