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St. Francis Grad Michael Jenkins Makes
Northwestern U. Team--(Oct. 31, 2001)

We received a note from one of our friends at Northwestern, letting us know that Michael Jenkins (5'-10" PG) who graduated from St. Francis HS in La Canada (Mission League) has made the team at Northwestern.  Michael is a fireplug of a player, with an excellent handle, and his is a great story of a player who saw what he wanted and went for it.  We talked with Michael throughout last year and the summer preceding, and he was intent on enrolling at Northwestern (evidently he has a brother also attending the school).  When we asked him why Northwestern, he told us that he was going to college for the academics principally (good answer) and for basketball secondarily.  Of course, he'd rather have been a scholarship player, but given his grit and determination we're certain that he'll find plenty of playing time for the Wildcats.  Here's the story sent to us which was printed a few days ago in the Northwestern student newspaper.  Of course, it's not entirely about Michael Jenkins. . . interesting.

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Familiarity rules for Cats, Carmody in year No. 2
Seniors lead NU for first time in three years; Europeans adapt to new style

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By John Eligon
The Daily Northwestern

Friday, October 26, 2001

Things in Evanston are a bit more recognizable this time around for Northwestern men's basketball coach Bill Carmody.

He's not learning names anymore — except for three new tongue-twisters — and he's already way past the basics.

"Good to see some familiar faces," said Carmody, who is in his second season with the Wildcats. "This time last year there were no familiar faces. I told the team on Saturday, 'After six days of practice we're so far ahead of where we were last year.' Last year we spent an awful lot of time just teaching — teaching the offense, where to go, basic things, how we take layups here, what we do. We know that. All we have to do is teach the three younger guys."

After a less-than-stellar 11-19 (3-13 Big Ten) record in 2000-01, the Cats are on as much of an upswing as they've had in a while. For the first time in three years, NU has seniors on the roster — forward Tavaras Hardy and guard Collier Drayton. Overall, the Cats return eight players from last year's squad, including three juniors and three sophomores.

They've also added four fresh faces. Freshmen forwards Vedran Vukusic (6-foot-8) and Davor Duvancic (6-foot-7) join the team from Croatia, while 6-foot-10 forward Thomas Soltau hails from Denmark.

NU also picked up Michael Jenkins, a 5-foot-8 freshman, as a walk-on. While the program is filled with excitement about the upcoming season, Carmody isn't jumping the gun quite yet. He's approaching the year, as one reporter noted, with a "non-pessimistic" attitude.

"I don't like to be optimistic — that's almost sinful," Carmody said. "I've seen these guys. Their skills are improved. So, if their skills are improved and you play together, usually the outcome is better."

The Cats, who have been practicing for just two weeks now, see talk of their final goals as premature. Their main goal is to do something that they haven't been doing much of recently — win games.

"We have a lot of team goals. Mainly, we want to win as many games as possible and see if we can take it to a further level ... than just the Big Ten tournament," Hardy said. "It's hard to say you want to win a certain number of games. We just want to go out there and play hard."

Despite just three conference victories last season, Carmody emphasized that his team was in many close battles all the way to the end. Although the former Princeton coach said he's not big on setting goals, he added that he just wants to see his team work hard and protect its home court.

"Be competitive — that's what we want to do," Carmody said. "We don't beat ourselves. Last year we did that a few times. They didn't really take it from us. They didn't really do anything special. We just didn't know how to win. Maybe we do now."

As for the newcomers from Croatia and Denmark, Carmody said they're progressing well. While seemingly not too concerned about their playing abilities, Carmody said the rookies will get their true test when they take the floor for the Cats' preseason opener on Nov. 4 at Welsh-Ryan Arena. NU faces the International Select All-Stars in an exhibition contest.

"How competitive are they? How ready are they?" said Carmody when asked about the Croatian players. "Not only are they going to college now, but it's culture shock in a new country. You have a lot of things thrown in there, but they are good dribblers and good passers and know how to play."

But league play may be a different story.

"Thomas hasn't played against the players he's going to be meeting in the Big Ten," Carmody said. "Just because he hasn't played against them doesn't mean he can't. I told him the other day, 'You don't know anything, kid, but every time you shoot, the ball goes in the basket.'"

Vukusic said he's anxious to face the American competition. But entering a new brand of play, the Croatia native added that he's adjusting well to the system. He's enjoying it, too.

"I thought that American basketball was just running up and down and all physical stuff," Vukusic said. "But here coach Carmody is making this game fun. We can shoot a lot — that's a thing that I like. And I like to jump. When people shoot, you've got to jump."

The freshmen aren't the only ones anxious to begin play.

"The only urgency I really have is Nov. 4 at home," Drayton said. "Go let our playing do the talking."

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