Neptune graduate Jenkins continues to burn up the courts Stateside

Neptune graduate Jenkins continues to burn up the courts Stateside
Neptune's Sean Jenkins with Conor Byrne of Sligo All-Stars. Picture: INPHO/Tommy Dickson

TO THE neutral or the untrained eye, it may have seemed like a non-event.

Having lost all matches in the group stage, nobody was paying much attention to a classification game, where the prize was a chance to play for 17th place in the championships.

But as the game progressed, the smooth play of a lanky Neptune guard was starting to garner interest. With longtime club and country running mate Adam Drummond out injured, the onus was on Sean Jenkins to perform, and that he did.

The final buzzer echoed throughout a half-empty Estonian arena. The scoreboard showed another loss for Ireland, this time falling to Austria by a margin of seven points.

But the real story of the contest was only visible on the scoresheet.

Sean Jenkins. Number 10. 42 points.

One of the highest tallies ever recorded by an Irish international.

Sean Jenkins who hit 42 points for Ireland in Estonia.
Sean Jenkins who hit 42 points for Ireland in Estonia.

Now seven months and nearly five thousand miles removed from last summer’s European championships, the eighteen-year-old talent is wrapping up a successful debut season at Spartanburg High School, South Carolina.

In a campaign consisting of five wins and 10 losses, Sean has managed to rack up some impressive performances, in what he describes as “a completely different game.”

“In Ireland, there is a big emphasis on fundamentals and running plays,” the former Neptune star explains. “Whereas over here it’s a lot faster. Everyone is an athlete, so I’m just trying to adjust.

“I’ve played AAU basketball (summer club basketball competitions) before though, so I kind of knew what to expect when I came over.”

With his mother Angeline Myers after a cup win. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
With his mother Angeline Myers after a cup win. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

Living with his father’s family, Spartanburg natives, the transition to life stateside has been a smooth one.

“I couldn’t imagine how others have gone over on their own,” he continues. “Being with family and having the support around you really helps.” 

If his performances thus far are anything to go by, it certainly is helping.

Jenkins was always known as a great scorer of the basketball, one who would never shy away from the big stage.

In last season’s President’s Cup final, a 17-year-old star came to the fore in the senior contest. With Sligo All-Stars making a run in the second half, Sean managed to pour in a total of 32 points to earn MVP honours, showing both talent and maturity beyond his years.

Twelve months previous, two similarly dominant performances in quick succession at U18 and U20 grades only help to solidify Jenkins as one of the most promising talents the county has produced in recent years.

Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Picture: Eddie O'Hare

Although it hasn’t been all smooth sailing, for the most part, this dominance has translated well to the American game. Sean finished the season averaging 18 points and five rebound per contest in a physical, competitive public school league.

While many Irish players opt for a post-graduate year in a prep school, Jordan Blount, Adrian and Ciaran O’Sullivan and former teammate Drummond examples of such, Jenkins now attends high school as a junior, meaning he is exposed to a more aggressive style of play.

“We end up playing a lot of schools from rougher areas,” he admits. “So the basketball is a lot more physical than the prep school leagues, but I’m getting used to it.”

Jenkins in action against Crosshaven as an U9 back in 2008. Picture: Larry Cummins
Jenkins in action against Crosshaven as an U9 back in 2008. Picture: Larry Cummins

Despite the presence of family close by, it does help to have a plethora of Cork stars on his side of the Atlantic to seek advice from.

“I talk to Jordan [Blount] all the time,” Sean says. “I mean he’s been through it all. He left home at 15 and he’s been everywhere since, so he’s been able to help me on my journey a lot.”

Now regarded as an integral part of the University of Illinois-Chicago program, the rise of Blount has been well documented throughout the Cork and national basketball scene.

And with Edel Thornton and Adam Drummond also doing so well just north in Connecticut, the former recently qualifying for the NCAA tournament, the latter in command at Taft School, while Blue Demons’ product James Beckom shines in Arkansas, he is in good company in representing Cork basketball stateside.

Jenkins in full flight against Moycullen BC. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Jenkins in full flight against Moycullen BC. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

Sean’s support system very much extends to his boyhood club, basketball giants Neptune.

The northside outfit continued their upward trend again this season after dropping out of Superleague in 2015 to begin a rebuilding process under coach Paul Kelleher, looking set to finish just shy of a National league title.

Despite leaving at a time when Neptune looked set to return to top-flight basketball, Sean says he gets nothing but support from his former teammates.

“I stay in touch with all the lads back home,” he explains. “Part of me hates missing out on what they’re doing right now, but I’m on my journey now and they understand that, and knowing that helps me over here.”

With the season over with, Sean now looks to a summer of track and field to maintain fitness and more AAU ball to help with his recruiting process.

“I came over here to get a Division 1 scholarship, and AAU is huge for me that way,” he enthuses.

With another year to prove his talents, and with schools already taking note of his skill in South Carolina, it surely won’t be long before we are seeing the number 10 of Sean Jenkins on an NCAA jersey.

Jenkins looking after the U9 boys and girls at a basketball camp last year. Picture: Dan Linehan
Jenkins looking after the U9 boys and girls at a basketball camp last year. Picture: Dan Linehan

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