Incoming junior Branden Jenkins eager to bring defense, toughness to LSU hoops

By CODY WORSHAM
Tiger Rag Editor

During LSU’s tumultuous 2015-16 season, a talented team often struggled for consistency, in no small part due to deficiencies in experience and edge.

Branden Jenkins is ready to bring both in buckets when he arrives on campus this summer.

The 6-foot-4 combo guard from Chicago by way of Lee College in Texas stuffed stat sheets as a sophomore in junior college, averaging 15.6 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 3.5 assists per game for the Rebels, including a 30 point effort on 11-for-21 shooting (3-for-4 from 3) in his final contest.

But all Jenkins wants to talk about is the other end of the floor.

“I can go and help LSU ultimately become a great team, starting on defense,” Jenkins told Tiger Rag. “I believe defense starts and creates offense. If I can get myself going on the defensive end, I know I’m able to go right and left, I’m able to shoot pull ups, I’m able to get to the basket, but ultimately it starts on defense.”

Jenkins finished eighth in NJCAA Region 14 play with 50 steals on the season, and LSU envisions him as a wing stopper capable of guarding the opposition’s best perimeter player on a nightly basis. That’s something the Tigers sorely lacked last season, as LSU surrendered 20+ points to 11 players in SEC play, no thanks to a defense that struggled to contain dribble penetration and, consequently, ranked 147th nationally in points allowed per 100 possessions (102.6), 265th in defensive effective field goal percentage (51.8 percent), and a dreadful 348th (third to last) in field goal percentage at the rim (69.9 percent).

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“I can go and help LSU ultimately become a great team, starting on defense.”

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The Tigers also sorely lacked vocal leadership, leaning on Antonio Blakeney late in the season as its lone voice of confrontational leadership and accountability. That’s a problem Jenkins is also eager to remedy, alongside fellow Lee College transfer Duop Reath.

“[The coaches] are going to expect a lot of us,” Jenkins said. “When things aren’t going right, they’re going to want us to be the voice and make sure everything is collective.”

Speaking of Reath, Jenkins raves about his 6-foot-10 teammate, comparing his game to Dirk Nowitzki, if Dirk had a 7-foot-3 wingspan and a knack for rim protection.

“Duop is an outstanding player,” said Jenkins. “He’s a stretcher. He can shoot it, put it on the floor, get to the basket. He has the longest wingspan in the country. That says it all. He’s a great player, a great guy. When he gets to LSU, they’re going to work with us, and when he gets a little bigger, he’s going to be outstanding. He’s going to be a great asset to the team.”

As for himself, Jenkins likens his game to Tony Allen, “but with a little more skill.” Jenkins spent much of the season refining his offensive game, particularly his pull up jumper. That work paid off, as he shot an impressive 50.9% from the field. He also improved drastically scoring the ball and shooting the 3 throughout the season, averaging 20.7 points on 43.4 percent 3-point shooting and 78 percent FT shooting in February and March.

He also spent more and more time running the point, something the Tigers may utilize in hopes of putting him, Blakeney, and promising sophomore Brandon Sampson all in the same lengthy, athletic lineup.

Having proven himself at the junior college level, Jenkins says he’s now ready for the next challenge that faces him.

“I was counted out in high school,” Jenkins said. “I wasn’t the kid that was, ‘Okay, he’s not going Division 1.’ It was, ‘He has to go to JUCO.’ They didn’t know whether I would have the grades or not. Me taking the step to go to Lee College, proving everybody wrong, my coaches believing in me, keeping me on task, the transition from Chicago to LSU has been so big for me. My grandmother is happy. My family is happy. I just want to get there and show everybody what I can do.”

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