John Jenkins’ reputation preceded him to Georgia.
“Every time I got the ball they were yelling, ‘Shooter! Shooter! Shooter!’” Vanderbilt’s freshman guard said Tuesday afternoon. And in a way, Georgia’s players were right.
Jenkins did take his share of shots in the Commodores’ 72-58 loss on Feb. 6 in Athens, Ga. His nine attempts were the third-most by any VU player and his seven 3-point tries were second-most that evening.
He just didn’t make any, which is why he is looking forward to UGA’s visit to Memorial Gymnasium on Thursday (6 p.m., ESPNU).
“I’m just going to play my game, but they definitely didn’t see it (the first time),” he said. “…I won’t try to do anything spectacular.”
It was discovered not long after that first contest that Jenkins’ performance was not just the result of an off night. Two days later he was hospitalized with a severe stomach virus, and he missed the Commodores’ next two contests – victories over Tennessee and LSU.
He returned to action and played 23 minutes last Thursday at Ole Miss. He followed that with 19 minutes Saturday against Kentucky. He was a combined 5-for-15 from the field (2-for-9 on 3-pointers) in those games.
“In retrospect, I think that he was probably sick when we were there because that was the last time I saw him until after he got very sick,” coach Kevin Stallings said. “He’ll better this time around, and hopefully he’ll play better. I’m sure he will.”
He certainly won’t feel any worse.
Jenkins said he was ailing when he took the floor against Georgia but had said nothing to any coaches or trainers.
“My dad and my mom both knew, they could tell,” he said. “They asked, ‘What’s wrong with you?’ I said I was fine. Really I was not fine at all. Then I ended up in the hospital.”
Stallings stopped short of saying that Jenkins is back to 100 percent. He pointed out, though, that the team’s leader in 3-point percentage is able to complete workouts and is considered available for as much game action as is needed.
“I think it’s just a matter of how he’s playing,” Stallings said. “If he’s playing well then he needs to play more, just like anybody else. I think his conditioning is such that we can play him — for the most part — as long as we need him.”
At the very least, they need him to make at least one 3-point shot. Only twice in his 24 appearances this season has he failed to make any. Both were defeats — the one to Georgia and another Dec. 11 against Western Kentucky.
“It’s going to get better,” Jenkins said. “It’s just taking time (because) what I had, people normally wouldn’t come back early.
“It was real tough. I felt like I wanted to play in the Tennessee game. I wanted to be in all those big games, so it was tough. Everything happens for a reason, so we’ll see how it goes.”
Plus, he’ll be listening for what — if anything — Georgia’s defenders say when he gets his hands on the ball.