Cedric Jenkins returns to St. John after college career

Published 12:08 am Wednesday, May 4, 2016

LAPLACE — Cedric Jenkins is used to transitions.

Former St. John Parish prep star and college basketball player Cedric Jenkins holds his newborn daughter Chloe, who was born in February. Jenkins said she is already prepared to be on the Disney Channel.

Former St. John Parish prep star and college basketball player Cedric Jenkins holds his newborn daughter Chloe, who was born in February. Jenkins said she is already prepared to be on the Disney Channel.

The former Reserve Christian Eagle, Riverside Academy Rebel, Southern Miss Golden Eagle and Southeastern Lion — and let us not forget Norco Indian — has let basketball lead him wherever it might take him, near or far.

Right after his junior season as stand-out basketball player at the tiny Reserve Christian School, a few short months after leading the Eagles to their fifth consecutive Class C state title and earning honors as the Outstanding Player of the Game, Jenkins learned his school would be closing.

He, along with his teammates, quickly decided to transfer to the slightly larger Riverside Academy after their coach, Timmy Byrd, was hired there.

“I was going wherever Coach Timmy was going,” Jenkins said. “None of it would have happened without him.”

So in the fall of 2009, Jenkins (and then-junior Ricardo Gathers) became  Riverside Rebels.

“It was a hard transition, but, being that the town we were in was so small, we all knew everybody,” he said. “All the Riverside kids were hanging out with the St. Charles kids, even though there was a rivalry sports-wise. We all grew up together, so it wasn’t really that hard.

“They were very accepting of us.”

A few months after helping Riverside win its first basketball state championship in 2010, Jenkins graduated. He then transitioned to college basketball player after signing with the University of Southern Mississippi.

Other than finding a way to satisfy his late-night candy cravings in the dormitories, Jenkins adjusted fairly well.

He spent three seasons as a Golden Eagle, transitioning from little used freshman to bench player as a sophomore. In his junior season, he played in 35 games, starting four and scoring a game-high 13 points against the University of Alabama-Birmingham.

Then his knee gave out.

“It was just wear and tear,” he said. “It really just broke down on me.”

Jenkins sat out his senior season at Southern Miss after undergoing surgery to repair his torn MCL.

USM also had a new coach, Doc Sadler replacing Donnie Tyndall.

“He could have kicked me out like, ‘sorry, there’s nothing we can do for you,” Jenkins said. “He actually made me a graduate assistant slash mentor to the incoming freshmen, sophomores and juniors as far as off to class, how to handle stuff, making decisions. It did help. I got a year of experience in coaching.”

While working out to strengthen his knee, Jenkins graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in sports management.

Then things took a twist.

Because he had graduated, he had to transfer to another university and enroll in graduate school to receive his extra year of eligibility. He chose Southeastern Louisiana University.

“It was close to home,” he said.

That transition was difficult, Jenkins said, going from a high-profile program to one that didn’t put much emphasis on basketball.

“It was a losing culture,” he said.

“A lot of the guys were just like, ‘Man, we gotta go to practice again.’ I just tried to bring a winning attitude to them. At Southern Miss, I played in the NCAA tournament, we set records, we broke records. When I got (to Southeastern,) nobody would come to the games. The stadium holds 6,000 people. I’d say maybe 600 people were there.”

It was depressing, Jenkins said.

“A lot of people forgot I even went to Southern Miss,” he said. “I wasn’t playing. I just wanted to give everyone an opportunity to see me. I just wanted to play one season where I could put my all into it and just get back to what I was doing in high school, which was producing and standing out to the community as somebody who was doing something positive.”

“He’s just a great kid,” Byrd said. “He’s one of my all-time favorites. He’s not only a great player, but just a really great kid. I have nothing but respect and admiration for him.”

Over the last year, Jenkins has seen more change. He moved home. He got engaged to his girlfriend of six years and he became a father to baby girl Chloe in February.

That may be the biggest transition.

“She is so amazing,” he said. “I’m ready for her to go be on the Disney Channel right now.”

He is also helping put together the inaugural NOLA League Basketball Tournament, a two-day event in July that will feature local and national celebrities, musicians and athletes in a basketball tournament at the Xavier University Convocation Center in New Orleans.

“It’s just something I can do to help give back,” he said. “I don’t know why somebody hasn’t been doing this all along.”

He also kept a watchful eye on last week’s NFL draft as his former teammate, Gathers, was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in the sixth round.

“I talk to him a lot,” Jenkins said.

“I wish he could have been Bo Jackson and did both football and basketball. He’s talented enough with just God-given talent mixed with the development of good skill over time. It’s what every person would want if you could make yourself into the ultimate athlete.”

By Lori Lyons