When Hawks rookie guard John Jenkins attended Station Camp High, scoring more than 40 points per game his senior season while becoming a Parade All-American, he often traveled to the Vanderbilt campus to play pickup games with the Commodores' players. The competition in his hometown of Hendersonville, Tenn., just wasn't enough; he needed more. When he eventually committed to Vandy coach Kevin Stallings, the connections were already in place. "Those guys brought me in," Jenkins said of his former teammates back in June during his pre-draft workouts. The results of those friendships forged paid dividends from the outset: Jenkins, though slight of build at the time, played 23 minutes per game his freshman season, averaging in double figures and immediately become one of the NCAA's top outside shooters (48.3 percent). He continued on to help lead one of Vanderbilt's most successful three-year stints in school history. Then came watching the NBA Draft with family members, seeing his name pop up as the Hawks' first-round selection, No. 23 overall. Then came NBA practices and games. Needless to say, Jenkins' contributions and improvements as a player came in smaller increments at the professional level, playing just 21 minutes total in his first 19 games — divided up by a stint with the Bakersfield Jam, the Hawks' D-League affiliate, in early December. He played well (51 total points) and was recalled after just two games. And slowly but surely, he's earned more minutes and his coaches' and teammates' confidence. "I made shots in college, but that's college," he said. "You have to prove yourself at this level and I've been trying to do that the whole year." Jenkins was, given his recent string of success, atypically quiet Friday night in a win against the Milwaukee Bucks. He scored just four points on 2-of-4 shooting. Just before the game, though, typically quiet in his off-court demeanor, Jenkins was being asked questions about becoming the first Hawks rookie since Josh Childress in 2005 to post back-to-back 20-point games. His development has been key for a backcourt missing Lou Williams, who is out for the season with a torn ACL, and, at times, Devin Harris, who has missed 23 games this season. Plus, when thrust into a mix that includes Kyle Korver (45.4 percent from 3-point range), Jenkins adds yet another strong shooter to the NBA's sixth-best outside shooting team. "Who? John? The rookie?" point guard Jeff Teague joked. "He's playing great. He's having a really, really good stretch right now. Hopefully he can continue to shoot the ball well, we need him down the stretch … This is the first time (I've played with) two guys that can stretch the floor the way (Korver and Jenkins) can." Another potential shooter spacing the floor can only make Teague's job that much easier; it's one more potential assist waiting to happen.
Hawks rookie Jenkins to play major role down stretch
Fox Sports South | Apr 14