David Jenkins Jr. read a message from a former Wilson High School athlete turned professional star.
“U NEXT lil bro!” wrote Desmond Trufant, the Atlanta Falcons cornerback.
Jenkins said they were playing basketball together recently when it hit him.
“I’m saying to myself, ‘Man, he’s from Tacoma, he came from the same high school I’m from, he’s in the school’s hall of fame, he’s a great example for what I want to do and he’s given back,’ ” Jenkins said.
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“Tacoma is where I’m from, Tacoma is where I was born. I want to make it for the town and I want to be able to give back.”
Only he’s already given a decent amount — like a Wilson High School record with almost 1,700 career points in four years as a varsity starter and this weekend his third consecutive trip to the 3A state tournament.
Then there’s the two 50-point games this season, last season’s 35-point effort against Lincoln for the district title and the game-winning shots — including twice against Foss this season.
Rams coach Dave Alwert’s voice softened and eyes swelled the more he reminisced of his admiration for Jenkins and his loyalty to Wilson.
“He’s one of the most stone-cold killers to come out of Tacoma,” Alwert said. “Not just scoring-wise. It’s his competitiveness. If you want to be successful, just pick up a little bit of his competitiveness.”
Jenkins said he wants nothing more than to finish his career in the Tacoma Dome for the second time.
But to do so, Jenkins and Wilson will have to beat top-ranked Garfield and its cast of NCAA Division I-bound athletes in an 8 p.m. state regional Saturday at Bellevue College.
It might as well be David vs. Goliath.
“For me, this is my state championship,” Jenkins said. “This is what it’s about right here.”
Jenkins doesn’t jump the highest or run the fastest — though he has dunked in practices, he says.
He averaged 26 points, six rebounds and four assists per game this season and has put himself in the conversation as one of the best career scorers in Tacoma high school basketball history.
It’s because of his much-improved 3-point shot — which has become near automatic — his strength and ability to finish in traffic.
“It really doesn’t matter what defense you play because he can score,” Lincoln coach Aubrey Shelton said. “He can shoot it from anywhere, and he can post up, and he’s very good at getting to the hoop. Sometimes he flops a little, too. He knows how to create contact and make the reaction to get the call. It’s actually pretty intelligent.”
Jenkins also has a lot of confidence. Jusk ask other players.
“He is determined to score,” said fellow Wilson senior and four-year starter Montre Lofton-Brown.
“Don’t let him heat up,” said Peninsula guard JaQuori McLaughlin, an Oregon State signee. “Because when he heats up, it’s hard for him to miss a shot.”
“I just know that I have to keep my guard up the whole time,” said Lincoln’s Dionte Simon, the three-time 3A Narrows defensive player of the year. “Because he can shoot it or he can go right by me. I have to be conscious of everything.”
Alwert said Jenkins’ determination often reminds him of Michael Jordan’s and Kobe Bryant’s.
“He’s just a pure scorer,” Alwert said. “He’s at the point where if he does miss it’s like, ‘What’s going on?’ ”
When he scored 50 points against Capital, Jenkins took 25 shots, hitting 16 (64 percent).
“My whole life I’ve never been the athletic guard,” Jenkins said. “But I knew I could cover that with skill work. I know great NBA players who aren’t all that athletic — guys like Steph Curry and Chris Paul — but they get the job done with their skill.”
Jenkins is 17 and won’t turn 18 until May. But even though he’s still a kid himself, he hears kids on sidelines before games: “That’s David Jenkins, that’s David Jenkins.”
He’s somewhat of a Tacoma celebrity, the words “King of Tacoma” written across the back of his shooting shirt. It’s also his name on Twitter. He preaches 253 whenever he can.
“When you think of him, you have to think of Wilson,” Shelton said. “He’s established that legacy and made a name for himself, and he’s got that going for him at Wilson.”
Alwert expects Jenkins’ No. 3 Wilson jersey to be in high demand for kids entering his program over the course of the next several years.
“I know I’m not in the NBA, but it feels like I’m in the NBA already,” Jenkins said.
“The best decision I made was to stay here. I built my legacy. It’s funny because people call me the ‘King of Tacoma.’ I wouldn’t have been if I had gone to Seattle. My town wouldn’t have liked me. At the end of the day, it’s setting the example for people younger than me. I wanted to set the bar high so people can come in and try to break my records and keep it going.
“At the end of the day, it’s about the town. It’s about the 253.”
Jenkins claims he’s been this way since the womb.
Alwert said Jenkins is like a son to him. They get along so well because they are both two of the most competitive people in the gym.
“He’s not out here to be your friend,” Alwert said. “Just like us coaches. We don’t need to be your friend. We are here to be successful and to push you to be the best basketball player you can possibly be. Dave’s been here four years — he’s taken on that persona.”
“I’ve known this man since I was in the fourth grade, maybe earlier,” Lofton-Brown said. “I’ve noticed his dad instill in him that when you’re playing, there’s really no friends out there. It’s really a kill-or-be-killed mindset.”
But when Jenkins is taking all those shots, it would be easy to perceive that as selfishness.
“But it’s not true,” Lofton-Brown said. “He’s had to take over a lot more this year than past years. At this point in our careers, he has to do what he is doing. And me being the other captain, I’m instilling that in our team. People trust him with the ball and they trust him to take that last shot.”
After a loss, Jenkins — who said he is leaning toward attending Brewster Academy in New Hampshire next year, just like University of Washington guard David Crisp did— can be typically found at the YMCA, trying to make 500 shots before he goes home.
“I feel like I’m really passionate about the game,” Jenkins said. “And some people don’t like me for that, but I feel that is the difference between some people making it and some people not.”
Alwert is hoping his team can somehow shock Garfield this weekend and send his two four-year program kids through the state regionals and to the Tacoma Dome next week.
“It’s immense pressure,” Alwert said, with a blank stare. “It’s honestly been a tough road this year because I feel like I failed Dave and Montre and Tacoma if I don’t get them to the Dome. That’s just my own personal relentless pursuit to making Tacoma great. The only way I could probably give back my appreciation for Dave and Montre and all of them to stick it through here is to help get back to the Dome. It tears me up. It really does.
“I just appreciate what they have done and I would love to knock off Garfield and shock the world to get us there.”
TJ Cotterill: 253-597-8677