Vanderbilt guard John Jenkins started the summer with the perception of JaMychal Green and Tony Mitchell as the enemies. He left with admiration for the Alabama duo.
On Thursday night, he hopes to come away victorious.
Jenkins and the Commodores travel to play Alabama (6 p.m., ESPN2) in a pivotal Southeastern Conference matchup of teams trying to work their way back into the Top 25.
For Jenkins, though, he’ll be reunited with former teammates. Over the summer, he got to know the Crimson Tide forwards when all three were invited to a Team USA World University Games tryout in Colorado Springs, Colo.
Jenkins and Green made the final cut, helping Team USA capture fifth-place at the World University Games in China.
“They’re really cool guys,” Jenkins said. “I didn’t know what to expect when I first went to the camp, what it would be like. But they were extremely cool guys and I had lot of fun getting to know them.”
Jenkins admitted, though, it took a little while to warm up to his SEC rivals, which included Kentucky’s Darius Miller, another who made the final 12.
“It was weird at first,” Jenkins said. “We were kind of shy with each other in the beginning. At the end, we were all cool so it was fun.”
Green and Mitchell have caught the attention of the rest of Jenkins’ Vanderbilt teammates and coaches, too.
Alabama (13-4, 2-1 SEC) is receiving a big lift from Green, a 6-foot-8, 228-pound forward who ranks 10th in the conference with 14.2 points per game. His 54.3 percent field goal shooting ranks third. The senior, who earned all-conference honors last year, also averages 6.6 rebounds.
In an 81-77 loss to Vanderbilt last year, he scored 23 points and grabbed 10 rebounds.
“There are just a number of problems he creates offensively,” Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings said. “He is a little bit undersized as a [center] but he utilizes that to his advantage. He is just a very, very complete offensive player. He really kind of gave us the business last year and had a great game against us.”
Mitchell, a 6-foot-6, 210-pound forward, ranks seventh in the league with 14.5 points per game.
The Commodores (13-4, 3-0) also had trouble containing him last year. He scored 22 points.
Jenkins isn’t the only Vanderbilt player who has called Mitchell his teammate. Vanderbilt forward Jeffery Taylor and Mitchell took part in the Kevin Durant Nike Skills Academy last summer in Chicago.
“He worked a lot on his offensive game and it has really shown,” Taylor said. “We practiced a little bit together. He is a good dude. He is a funny guy to be around and also a very good basketball player.”
Jenkins said he keeps in contact with Green and Mitchell via Twitter.
Jenkins and Taylor stopped short of calling them good friends though. But they said when they aren’t not wearing crimson, they’re fun to hang out with.
“From the time I spent with him during the camps and stuff, they’re good guys,” Taylor said.