Former foe Jenkins now rooting for Tar Heels to take home title

Fifty-one weeks after breaking UNCs heart by hitting a 3-pointer at the buzzer to lift Villanova to a 77-74 national championship game victory, Kris Jenkins is openly supporting the Tar Heels and his adopted brother Nate Britt

Adam Hunger—X02835
Mar 11

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The veteran members of North Carolina’s basketball team aren’t exactly haunted by the memory of the shot that cost them last year’s national championship. And yet, they must have thought they’d seen a ghost from their NCAA tournament past during Friday’s South Region semifinal win against Butler.Because there, sitting right behind their bench at FedExForum, was the source of their greatest career disappointment.Only it wasn’t an apparition. It really was Kris Jenkins in the flesh.Fifty-one weeks earlier in Houston, Jenkins broke the Tar Heels’ hearts by hitting a 3-pointer at the buzzer to lift Villanova to a 77-74 title game victory. Now, because of his relationship with his adopted brother and current UNC guard Nate Britt, he’s become one of his former rival’s biggest fans.It’s a show of support Britt said means the world to him.”I might be a little spoiled because that’s how our family is. We support each other any way we can,” the 6-foot-1 senior said Saturday as his team prepared for its region championship game against Kentucky. “We’ve played with each other for almost our entire lives in basketball and we don’t get to see each other much, so we wanted to take advantage of this opportunity.”As happy as Britt was to see his brother, whose Wildcats had their bid for back-to-back titles end with a second-round loss to Wisconsin last week, it would only be human nature for his teammates to be less enthusiastic about seeing Jenkins again at their game.Surprisingly, though, they were all supportive of his gesture.Although they haven’t forgotten — and probably never will, even if they beat Kentucky on Sunday and go on to win the national championship that barely eluded them a year ago — it’s clear that they’ve already forgiven Jenkins.”I don’t think it’s awkward at all, because he’s a great dude and his one of our friends,” said Kennedy Meeks, one of six UNC players to have seen action against Villanova last April. “And he’s Nate’s brother, so of course you can’t really avoid him.”He just happened to hit a big-time shot against us last year and of course, you can dislike him at the moment for it. But at the same time you’ve got to move forward.”That process began within weeks of last year’s championship game when Jenkins made a surprise appearance in Chapel Hill.”One of the assistants came in and said Kris was there and that he wanted to know if he could play pickup with our guys that afternoon,” Tar Heels coach Roy Williams said. “That was a little unusual. I said no, tell him I’m sending a hitman down to take care of him. But he played pickup with our guys that afternoon.”Williams said he wasn’t aware of Jenkins’ presence at Friday’s game until someone told him about it afterwards.He might have been the only one.Jenkins was shown several times on both the big screen at FedExForum during the game, which the Tar Heels won 92-80, as well as on the small screen at home to millions of viewers. Being the center of attention, however, was the farthest thing from his mind.”It’s all about my brother,” Jenkins told the New York Post. “I just come out here to support him and his team. I’m just happy that I can give him that love and support.”Jenkins said he plans to be in the stands for as long as UNC keep playing in the tournament. Both he and Britt are hoping that means three more games — preferably this time with a happier ending for the Tar Heels.”That would be extremely cool,” Britt said. “That would be huge for our family. My mother wouldn’t have to choose anymore. There’d be two rings, two national championships in one household. That would give us a lot of bragging rights in our community, for sure.”