Jenkins ends prep career with fourth ring

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 17, 2010

By Ryan Arena


RESERVE – Moments after his team’s Class 2A state championship victory over Jonesboro-Hodge, a tearful Cedric Jenkins sat alongside four of his Riverside teammates at the postgame press conference.

A senior, Jenkins had just played his last high school basketball game, finishing his final season in the same fashion as he had the three previous — as a winner.

“He’s one of the only guys who’ll ever be able to say they graduated with four championship rings,” said Riverside coach Timmy Byrd. “He’s one of the two or three best players I’ve had the pleasure to coach.”

That’s high praise from a man who has coached the likes of Tweety Carter and Eddren McCain while at dynastic Reserve Christian.

But few can match the 6-foot-2 guard’s accomplishments.

Jenkins will just about assuredly be selected All-State for the fourth time in four years. He was named Class C MVP in 2009. Remarkably consistent, he’s averaged 19 points per game or more in each of his four seasons with the team. Jenkins has filled numerous roles with his teams: scorer, distributor, long range bomber, sidekick and finally, leader.

None of it was handed to him. With a broad smile on his face, Jenkins recounted the player he was when he began playing for Byrd at Reserve Christian.

“I was pretty much just a set shooter when I started here,” said Jenkins. “Coach Timmy and coach Ronnie (Byrd) took me under their wing and helped me with my form.”


Said Byrd: “He’s one of the best shooters in the nation.”

But Jenkins has worked hard to close up other one-time holes in his game.

“One year, I just couldn’t dribble,” Jenkins said with a laugh. “You think I’m joking, but I really couldn’t. I was scared. Coach came to me and told me, ‘You’re gonna dribble this ball.’ And I worked at it.

“Then the next thing was, people started questioning how athletic I was. So I got into the gym and built my legs up. For me, I use every little thing like that as motivation.”

That motivation pushed Jenkins to overcome whatever hurdles were placed in front of him.

The player who at one time couldn’t dribble played the point after McCain’s departure in 2008. When his team found itself in a dogfight, as it was in hostile territory at Springfield in the 2010 quarterfinals, it was Jenkins raining down threes to keep his team from falling into a hole.

He hasn’t allowed injury to derail him, either.

He recovered from a broken leg suffered in the preseason of his sophomore year to return as good as ever. This past season, it was a torn meniscus in his knee suffered during the summer.

Again, Jenkins bounced back, leaving observers little hint that anything was ever wrong.

But on Saturday, it hit him that this chapter of his life was coming to an end.

“He was crying before the game,” said teammate Ricardo Gathers. “It rubbed off on me. I wanted to contribute in any way I could to him winning it in his last year.”

Said Jenkins: “It just hit me. This is my last game in the Cajundome.

“It’s my last game with these guys, and I love my teammates so much. I love the fans, and everybody at Riverside.

“I love this game so much, I give so much time and effort to it. So I got emotional.”

Jenkins said he isn’t sure what comes next, or where he will play his college ball.

But he does know he’ll miss his coach, his teammates and his fans.

The feeling is mutual.

“I know this for sure, and that’s that we’re going to miss him,” said Byrd. “His leadership, his attitude, his citizenry, he’s the kind of kid you want to call your son.”