The last two years, John Jenkins, Jr., has been a staple at Vanderbilt men’s basketball home games at Memorial Gym.
Not too far from the Vanderbilt bench, he sits with the rest of his family in the first two rows, cheering on his son, John, who is a sophomore guard for the Commodores.
However, when No. 24 Vanderbilt edged Marquette 77-76 on Wednesday night, John Jr. was not in attendance. The day after Christmas, he was put in the hospital for pneumonia, along with a fluttering heart. He was released earlier this week and is feeling better, the younger Jenkins said, but had to watch that particular contest from home.
John Jr.’s absence affected his son, who was just 4-of-21 from the field overall and 2-of-15 from his preferred range beyond 3-point line.
“He is my best friend,” Jenkins said of his father before practice Thursday. “Anytime your best friend or somebody you really love or are close to is not doing well, it kind of gets to you — as much as you don’t want it to. I think it was more the fact that I was hoping he would be all right. During the day, I wasn’t thinking too much about it. I guess it had just been lingering on in my head so much.
“… That is really no excuse. We got the win and I am very proud of that. It is something I have to bounce back from. I’ll be all right. It is over now so I’ll be all right.”
Jenkins finished with 13 points and remained the team’s leading scorer (17.8 points per game) heading into Vanderbilt’s home game against Davidson, 4 p.m. Sunday.
Against Marquette, he missed his first nine 3-point attempts, many of them open looks. The long drought, however, didn’t deter him.
“I was going to keep shooting them,” he said. “They all felt so good. They all felt like they were going in.”
Jenkins nailed his first 3-pointer with 12:15 remaining in the game, drew a foul on the play and made the free throw for the four-point play. It capped off a 21-6 run that gave the Commodores (10-2) a 59-51 lead.
Vanderbilt fans have become accustomed to Jenkins hitting many of those shots. That is also why Commodores coach Kevin Stallings said Jenkins always has the green light, even when he is struggling.
The 6-foot-4, 215-pound Jenkins, who went to nearby Station Camp, has cooled off a little after being named the Southeastern Conference’s Sixth Man of the Year a season ago. He shot 48.3 percent from 3-point range last year. This season he is 36-of-96 (37.5 percent) from beyond the arc through 12 games.
“John’s shot has just gotten a little flat and we told him that. We are going to have to get him in and get it worked out,” Stallings said. “But I don’t think anybody is going to be leaving him open anytime soon. Every time he shoots it I think it is going in and so do all the people in the stands. He has trained us to think that way.”
Unless there is one particular person who is not in the stands.
• Davidson entered its game Thursday night against St. Joseph’s with a 6-5 record. The Wildcats had won three of their last four.
Jake Cohen leads the way with 14.8 points a game, while J.P. Kuhlman and Brendan McKillop average 13.2 and 11.3 points, respectively.
Davidson joined Vanderbilt in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off in November and played similar opponents. Like the Commodores, the Wildcats lost to West Virginia but defeated Nebraska. They also beat Western Kentucky 64-51. Vanderbilt blew out Western Kentucky 82-62 on Dec. 1 at Memorial Gym.
• Andre Walker made the game-winning layup with 4.1 seconds left against Marquette after missing the previous four games due to mononucleosis.
The starting forward scored seven points, grabbed eight rebounds and had five assists in his first game since Dec. 1.
Even though he is healthy enough to play, Walker said he is still feeling the effects of the illness. He won’t be able to begin lifting weights until Jan. 6. Plus, he wasn’t able to catch up on a lot of sleep, like the doctors recommended.
“I had finals so I really couldn’t do that. ... I’m just really tired and I have to get back in shape I guess,” Walker said on Thursday. “I was never really sick. I just got the tests and they said I had mono but I felt the same. It was weird.”