By BRAD KEITH
STEPHENVILLE (December 15, 2015) — Romond Jenkins has been waiting a long time to get back on the basketball court.
Tarleton State has been waiting a long time to see the 6-7 center in action.
Jenkins finally made his Tarleton debut Monday, and his teammates and coach believe his two points, seven boards and two assists in 14 minutes of action were just a sign of good things to come.
“I thought he did a great job rebounding the basketball. He got involved and even had two assists,” said 28th year Tarleton head coach Lonn Reisman. “Let’s give him a couple weeks to get into the flow of things and you’ll see a player who can really help us.”
The opportunity to help Tarleton win is something Jenkins has waited more than a year for. First, he had to get academically eligible, which became official at 5 p.m. Monday.
“It’s been a long road for me. I didn’t really take care of business at my juco or my first year here, but I’ve learned it’s time to buckle down,” said Jenkins. “In the summer and especially in this (fall) semester, I’ve been working hard, going to class, taking care of my business.”
Jenkins did more than just get back on track academically during the fall semester. He also prepared to be ready to contribute on the court when the time came.
It wasn’t until he was the first player introduced in the Tarleton starting lineup at Wisdom Gym that it really settled in.
“It’s been a year and a half since I played, so I really just wanted to go out there and play without being nervous, but I think that’s going to take a couple games,” he said.
The nerves are understandable. The last time Jenkins played was at Moberly Community College in Missouri, not with a top 10 team in NCAA Division II.
“Juco is really kind of rough, but that might have been good for me, because that’s what I try to do is bring the toughness,” said Jenkins. “I try to be a big rebounder, bring a lot of energy and play great defense.”
Jenkins came out with energy Monday night, even though he didn’t get many looks at the basket. He snared three rebounds in less than three minutes to begin the game, but went to the bench with two fouls.
“I was trying to be active, and I was getting on the boards, but then I got into a little foul trouble. I guess I was a little too active,” Jenkins says.
He managed four more boards and scored his only points on an emphatic dunk with an assist off the backboard from Charles Hill.
“I threw Charles an oop earlier, so I guess he was rewarding me back for it,” said Jenkins with a laugh.
It was the type of finish his teammates had been waiting to see in action.
“He’s definitely going to be a big impact player for us down the stretch,” said point guard Michael Hardge. “He’s a high intensity performer who can go get boards and play above the rim. He also does the dirty work. He plays with a chip on his shoulder, so to speak.”
Hardge believes the exciting dunk is just what Jenkins needed to get going on the offensive end.
“That was huge for him to get the oop off the glass. Those were his first points at Tarleton, and hopefully that was just a little taste because we’re all ready to see him do more,” Hardge said. “He had some first game jitters, but he’ll get in a groove. I’m sure of it.”
Reisman, the winningest active college coach in Texas, was confident enough to insert Jenkins directly in the starting lineup in his first game.
“The great thing is he’s been working out with us all fall. He knows the offense and the flow of what we’re doing. He’s been here a year, but it’s still different at game time,” said Reisman. “We felt like we needed to get him out there immediately and let him work through some of those first game nerves and knock some of the rust off so he’s ready to go.”
And ready to return to the form he showed when Tarleton recruited him at Moberly Community College (Mo.). He averaged a 10.3 points, 10.5 rebounds, 1.3 blocks and 1.1 steals while shooting 51 percent in his only season at Moberly, ranking sixth in the nation with 141 offensive rebounds, according to his profile on TarletonSports.com.
It was at Moberly where Jenkins was first teammates with Malcolm Hamilton.
“Malcolm and me were freshmen together at juco so we’ve been playing together a long time,” Jenkins said. “Now he’s a senior and I’m a junior, and we just have a special chemistry. We feed off each other.”
Hamilton says the biggest thing he sees Jenkins adding to the team is more energy.
“He’s another energy guy. He’s going to play hard every possession,” Hamilton said. “He can score in the low post, everything. He’s just another big piece to the puzzle.”
Jenkins helped Douglass High School in Midwest City, Oklahoma to a pair of 4A state titles and a combined record of 54-4 as a junior and senior. He was all-conference both years and added all-defense honors as a senior, his Tarleton bio states.
Jenkins is hoping for more championship rings at Tarleton.
“The Lone Star Conference is the toughest conference in the nation, but that’s what I’m here for is to win the conference championship and hopefully a national championship,” said Jenkins. “I came here because of all these banners on the walls, the conference championships, regional championships and final fours. I want to get a couple more rings.”