Rams’ Jenkins sparkles with leading role

Kelsey Jenkins

QUICKSBURG — Strasburg junior Kelsey Jenkins didn’t quite have the start to the 2014-15 girls basketball season that she would’ve liked.

Jenkins was held without a bucket in the Rams’ first game of the season against Rappahannock County as the Rams squeaked by the Panthers. But instead of dwelling on her uneventful season opener, Jenkins used it as motivation.

“My first game against Rappahannock, the first game of the season, I didn’t score at all and it was a little discouraging,” Jenkins said after the Rams’ road win over Stonewall Jackson on Monday night. “So I got back in the gym and I worked on my shot and I got more confidence.”

That extra effort and determination to improve her offensive production in practice has led to far more rewarding results since then for Jenkins.

The junior point guard scored at least 11 points in four straight games prior to Wednesday’s road game at Manassas Park, including a combined 31 points in two games last week. For her efforts, Jenkins has been named The Northern Virginia Daily’s Female Athlete of the Week for Dec. 7-13.

Jenkins, a three-year starter for Strasburg, began her string of double-digit scoring performances with a 12-point effort against East Hardy on Dec. 6, but she took things up a notch in a pair of Bull Run District games a week ago.

The 5-foot-2 Jenkins led Strasburg (4-2, 2-1 Bull Run) with a 16-point performance in the Rams’ 46-26 win at Madison County on Dec. 10. She followed that up two days later with a 15-point outing in a 38-33 loss to Warren County last Friday.

Jenkins, who averaged 6.3 points per game last season, is averaging 10.1 points per game through Strasburg’s first six games this season.

“The only thing that I see is the difference is I think that now … she’s really allowing the offense to work. I don’t know that she would’ve done that as much last year,” Rams head coach Joel Morgan said. “She’s staying in the offense. Last year she might’ve left the offense and done something else. I think she’s really trusting more, letting her teammates help her out. She stays in the mix. I think the real big thing is that she’s trusting, not always just always catching it and shooting it.”

Jenkins, who noted that her confidence in her scoring ability has been growing with each passing game, said she focused harder this offseason to improve her game in an effort to help the Rams build off of last season’s 13-12 campaign, Strasburg’s first winning season since 2009-10.

“I’ve worked a lot underneath the basket and finishing underneath because it’s always been harder because I’m smaller,” Jenkins said. “I’ve been really working on trying to finish my layups and get more fast breaks and get to the basket. So I think I’ve been driving in and penetrating more and drawing fouls.”

Jenkins’ value as Strasburg’s point guard goes well beyond her improved scoring ability, however. Morgan praised the junior’s ball security, an aspect of her game that Jenkins said she’s always worked hard to improve upon given her steady role as the Rams’ primary ball-handler.

“Through the first four games she only had like two turnovers, and that’s somebody that has the ball in their hands a lot,” Morgan said. “She just seems to be calm and really the last three games … she’s starting to make some smarter decisions on the offensive end. Not always trying to shoot the thing over the top, [but] shot fake, drive. That whole element of learning to really trust your teammates, get in there and jump stop, distribute the ball when it’s there, look for the scoring opportunities. I think she’s really starting to do that better and that’s why she’s not turning the ball over.”

All of those aspects — the scoring ability coupled with the invaluable calmness under pressure with the ball in her hands — have allowed Jenkins to emerge as a much-needed leader on the court for a Rams squad that lost six seniors to graduation from last year’s team.

“She’s being a better leader this year and that’s what we need,” Morgan said. “We lost a lot of seniors and we needed that. What I’ve seen at this point is an improved player.”

Contact staff writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or bfauber@nvdaily.com