South Dakota State was in search of a secondary scorer, a guy who could put up points in support of Mike Daum but also be able to light it up on his own when the Dauminator wasn’t dominating.
The Jacks found their man in David Jenkins, Junior.
“We are starting to master playing off of each other,” says Jenkins, Jr. “Our coach really encouraged that, though, early in the year. He thought that me and Mike would be able to play together and be able to score at a really high level. There have been games this year where me and Mike have combined for over 60 points. And I feel like it’s only going to get better as we keep learning each other.”
The Dave and Daum Show did combine for 61 against Denver. They put together 59 against North Dakota State and collaborated for 68 earlier this year against Colorado. It’s usually been Daum with 30-something and Jenkins, Jr. with 20-something.
But, when set up with the fact that Daum shoots A LOT Jenkins goes along with a grin and a laugh. “If Daum didn’t shoot as much as he did, I would have some 30 and 40 point games,” he chuckles. “That’s my guy.”
It has been a lot of laughs for the Jacks so far this season with Jenkins, Jr. and Daum and Reed Tellinghuisen and others all taking turns being the guy who gets buckets. They are always feeding the hot hand and always trying to get it to the guy that’s got it going.
“Really," says Jenkins, "it’s just about having fun at the end of the day because I feel like as a team and not just myself, when we’re having fun we are playing the right way. We’re doing the right things and we’re winning. Sometimes when we’re not having fun and just playing, we are not playing up to our potential at all times. So really just having fun and having confidence, and like I said, not just myself, but the whole team. When we play with swag and we’re just flowing, we always get the win.”
South Dakota State head coach T.J. Otzelberger has never tried to hide the fact that he likes guys who can score and he was cautiously optimistic about his new guy’s prowess early in the season.
“We knew that David could be a prolific scorer,” says Otzelberger. “Didn’t know quite how soon that would all click because for freshmen it just takes different time. But David has always played against great competition. That year at prep school really helped him mature in a lot of ways.”
Jenkins, Jr. is a long way from home. He was born and raised in Tacoma, Washington, a city of about 215,000 residents. One tournament organizer tagged Jenkins as the “King of Tacoma” in his high school days. He put up a pair of 50-point games as a senior and had Mountain West Conference and Pac 12 Conference schools looking at him. But after high school, he ended up at a prep school in Wichita, KS.
“I felt like I wasn’t mentally prepared to go to college right away,” he explains. “I felt like I didn’t really grasp hold of the fact that I’m really going to go to college. I didn’t take that on full effect yet. So I remember saying to myself I need to go do this prep year and really get prepared mentally. Because I felt like I was physically ready and I could go compete with the best of them already but mentally I just wasn’t there yet.”
So while Jenkins, Jr. was getting his mind right, Otzelberger was still out looking for that guy who could score. The two knew each other when Otzelberger was an assistant at the University of Washington in Seattle while Jenkins, Jr., was less than an hour away in his sophomore and junior years at Wilson High School in Tacoma.
“We built a relationship then,” says Jenkins, Jr. “He was recruiting me as a senior in high school, but I kinda wasn’t entertaining the fact of coming to South Dakota, to be honest. It’s too cold. So I think he kinda got that vibe and backed off a little bit. But then when prep season was getting over, he comes and sees me.”
“I think it was like 3 or 4 weeks in a row,” recalls Otzelberger. “I drove to Wichita early morning on a Sunday morning at 3 or 4 AM and get in there and watch him for a noon workout and then headed back after and get back late that night.”
“Seven hours there just to see me for an hour,” says Jenkins, “and then driving seven hours back and I was like, man, OK, this guy really wants me, you know? And it really opened my eyes and really showed me that this is a coach I want to be with for my four years in college.”
Otzelberger says it was somewhat of an out of sight, out of mind situation with Jenkins. Other programs had moved on, but Otzelberger stayed in the hunt because he was fairly certain he had found what he was looking for.
“People had recruited him for a while and gone back and forth on where they stood with him. And it was interesting because having seen him play, I just had these vivid memories of highlight tapes and news clippings and things I’d seen when I was in Seattle of him scoring and scoring and doing it in bunches and doing it in a hurry. And fortunately I had never seen him play any other way, so I didn’t overanalyze with him. I just knew he brought that to the table, and we're really happy and fortunate that it has taken hold and impacted our program in a such a major way right from the jump.”
So it was a coach’s commitment along with several other favorable factors that made Jenkins, Jr., a Jackrabbit. There was the chance to team up with Mike Daum and SDSU’s history of making the NCAA Tournament, and the freedom to let it fly as a freshman. All of those conditions converged to convince a young man to move 1,500 miles from a hometown he loves to a much smaller, much colder town that he is starting to like a lot.
“Brookings is realistically all about SDSU, and I love it. Everybody supports us and like I said, it’s just a real family feel and makes me feel good and makes me feel like it's home. That’s why I ended up making my decision to come here. It’s a mixture of that and my coaches and teammates. It was just a really good situation for me.
“At the end of the day it’s not about going to the biggest school or the biggest offer you have. Some people get caught up on that. Really it’s about going where it’s the best fit. And I can honestly say that this is the best school out of any that recruited me in the country. I really fit. I fit the system. I fit what we've got going on.”
“We are just fortunate that David, when he took his visit, he felt the love and felt the fans,” says Otzelberger. “He knew the tradition of the program and liked the guys. All of those things came together, and we’re just lucky to get him.”