There is certainly something to be said about an NBA team drafting a homegrown kid.
Having come up in the same area gives the prospect an immediate connection with the team and its city, as well as its fans.
The passionate city of New York, filled with Knicks fans, is no different.
In the past, fans have been heartbroken when local heroes evaded them in the draft. They were all devastated when the Knicks just missed out on Hofstra’s Speedy Claxton when he was selected by the 76ers with the 20th overall selection, just two picks ahead of his hometown team, during the 2000 rookie draft.
While that occurrence was out of everyone’s hands, it still stung that much more after the Knicks had passed up on St. John’s University’s own Ron Artest (the NBA Defensive Player of the Year to be) just a year earlier during the 1999 draft.
Though Brooklyn native Carmelo Anthony’s arrival to the Knicks was perhaps a long time coming, the team will get an opportunity to redeem itself yet again through the draft next month in the form of Hofstra’s Charles Jenkins.
Jenkins, a bit of a combo guard, departs Hofstra as the school’s all-time leading scorer, having broken Claxton’s record. Furthermore, he stood as the first Hofstra athlete to have his number retired by the school while he was indeed still wearing it.
Though he has certainly garnered multiple accolades, Jenkins’ small-school background may hurt his draft possibilities. He may be a reach for the Knicks, who hold the 17th overall pick in this year’s draft, as he is attracting interest from teams with picks ranging in the first round’s final 15 selections.
That being said, the ways Jenkins could contribute to the Knicks are endless.
Though he did average 4.8 assists during his senior year, the Knicks would likely look at Jenkins as a strong catch-and-shoot option. Players such as Chauncey Billups and Carmelo Anthony can bring up the ball, so it’s important the Knicks have players on the court that can receive the ball with ease.
It’s also noteworthy Billups began to take Toney Douglas under his wing during his first season as a Knick and has also spent time this offseason working with preparing prospects for the draft. If the Knicks were interested in molding Jenkins into more of a traditional point guard, Billups could certainly ease the transition.
Jenkins has actually drawn comparisons to the likes of Douglas and Marcus Thornton and could definitely come off the bench to provide a similar spark as they do. However, he’s also a decent defender, and his aggressiveness with the ball could also make him a better option than Landry Fields at the two, come training camp.
Given the success of Fields, there’s no question coach Mike D’Antoni, who often plays smaller lineups, would have no problem inserting Jenkins in the starting lineup if he were the right fit. In addition to looking for a catch-and-shoot guard, the Knicks also seem to favor more mature prospects who spent time in school, as evidenced by the selections of Fields and Andy Rautins.
While Jenkins may be one of the top guards in the draft, the big men and other prospects available make him a bit of a question mark at pick No. 17.
It is imperative that he up his stock while making solid impressions during pre-draft interviews and workouts.
Regardless of whether or not he’s perceived as a reach, there’s no doubt the selection of Jenkins by the Knicks would be celebrated by their fans regardless. It’s not often Knicks fans present at the draft are able to cheer with passion for a player they are abundantly familiar with.
As it is, Jenkins is already gaining speed as the talk of the town, having thrown out the ceremonial first pitch at a Mets game last week.
Jenkins has mentioned that he grew up a Knicks fan watching them on television with his father, and there’s no doubt current fans would relish the opportunity to watch a local favorite make a seamless transition from college to the pros by staying home to begin his professional career in orange and blue.
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