Brothers Britt, Jenkins now have matching set of championship rings

A year ago, Villanovas Kris Jenkins broke the Tar Heels heart with a national championship-winning basket. Monday he was in the stands rooting on his brother Nate Britt as he and his teammates earned a title of their own

Brett Friedlander—North State Journal photo
Villanova star Kris Jenkins

PHOENIX — All Nate Britt could do last April was watch from the North Carolina bench as his adopted brother Kris Jenkins made the 3-pointer at the buzzer that broke his team’s heart and gave Villanova the college basketball national championship.Monday night at University of Phoenix Stadium, Jenkins returned the favor.Sitting in the first row courtside behind the Tar Heels bench, wearing a UNC South Region championship shirt and hat, Jenkins cheered Britt on as he and his teammates won a title of their own with a 71-65 win against Gonzaga.It was a special moment for both brothers, especially Britt, who still had a hard time believing his family’s good fortune in the immediate aftermath of his elusive crown.”I think what we did was nearly impossible, especially with us meeting up in the championship last year and then for us to win it this year,” the senior guard said. “I think you can only give that praise to the Lord.”Britt scored two points with two rebounds and two assists in 13 minutes of Monday’s title-clinching victory, but he has been a valued reserve whose role varies from game-to-game for the majority of his four seasons with the Tar Heels.In Saturday’s national semifinal victory against Oregon, the 6-foot playmaker keyed an important late first-half stretch in which UNC turned an eight-point deficit into a three-point halftime lead while scoring five points and handing out three assists in 22 minutes.”We can have different guys step up on any night, whether it be the starting five or guys off the bench,” he said. “We’ve got different guys that can do it.”Among the massive crowd of 76,168 that jammed the Arizona Cardinals football stadium to witness it, no one was more happy of what Britt and his teammates accomplished than the player whose dramatic last-second shot beat them just 364 days earlier.”I can’t even put it into words right now. It’s crazy,” said Jenkins, whose Wildcats saw their bid for a repeat championship ended in the second round by Wisconsin two weeks ago. “I was nervous the whole game, but now I’m just so happy. I can’t wait to give him a big hug.”He probably had to wait in line for that honor behind his mother Melody Britt.Sporting a net her son and his teammates cut down after their South Region championship victory against Kentucky last week in Memphis as a necklace, the proud mom had tears in her eyes as she talked about the matching set of jewelry her two boys have managed to earn over the past two seasons.”Now they both have championship rings,” she said during the post game celebration with her husband Nathaniel, Jenkins and several other Tar Heel parents. “It is so very exciting. They both worked so hard for this and I’m just so happy to see that both of their dreams have come true.”It didn’t come easy, though.UNC shot just 35.6 percent from the floor, made only four of its 27 3-point attempts and was outrebounded for only the fourth time this season in the championship game. There was also a momentary flashback to a year ago when it appeared as though Gonzaga might get its hands on the ball with a chance at winning on the final possession.But after a missed shot by the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player Joel Berry, Kennedy Meeks gave the ball back to the Tar Heels by going to the floor to gain a held ball with less than a minute to go. Fellow senior Isaiah Hicks then made a driving basket to give his team a little breathing room.Twenty-five seconds later, the celebration that waited a year to happen was finally able to begin.”I think we were able to close the game out because of our experience,” said Britt, one of eight UNC players back from the 2016 disappointment. “We had some tough games in the tournament where it came down to the end and we needed to get stops and make plays. I think that gave our guys a lot of confidence tonight and we were able to will ourselves a way to win.”With a little help from a former foe and brother watching from the side.