Chanise Jenkins helped Chicago’s Whitney Young High School to three Public League titles and, as a freshman in 2008, to the Dolphins’ first state title. She scored 1,061 points at Young and was a three-time All-State selection.
“When we recruited Chanise in her sophomore class at Young, she was coming out with a class of [former Tennessee star] Ariel Massengale and three or four other great guards in her class, and I always thought Chanise was the best,” DePaul head coach Doug Bruno said in a recent interview. “And I think she has had the most success in college of any of those guards.”
There was precedent for Jenkins to attend DePaul: her grandfather, Robert Jenkins, graduated from DePaul’s College of Law; her aunt, Betty Jenkins, graduated from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences; and her aunt Minnie graduated from the College of Education.
But for Jenkins, the decision was an internal one and a prideful one.
“I think that you owe it to your own city and your hometown to come back and put your city on the map instead of going someplace else and making a name for yourself there,” said Jenkins in a recent interview. “It is better to be here and to show that Chicago is one of the best basketball places.”
Jenkins’ start at DePaul, while auspicious, did not last long. She played two games in the 2011 Chicago Maggie Dixon Classic and was named to the All-Tournament team after averaging seven ppg, four apg, and three rpg. Jenkins then dislocated a tendon in her left foot and missed the rest of the season. But two games was enough to successfully forecast the next four years.
The five-foot-five Jenkins was named to the All-Big East Freshman team in her redshirt freshman year. She was DePaul’s best free-throw shooter at 79.3 percent. She was the third DePaul player ever to be named Big East Freshman of the Week. She led or tied her team for game-high assists in 15 games. She tied for second on her team for rebounds per game that year at 4.9. She won DePaul’s Shirley Becker Academic Award.
There was no second year slump for Jenkins. Her play was instrumental in DePaul’s win over Duke, sending the Blue Demons to their second-ever Sweet 16 appearance. She made 18 of 19 free throws in the BIG EAST title game win over St. John’s and in the NCAA tournament. She finished the year No. 18 in assist/turnover ratio in Division I at 2.60, one of only five sophomores among the top 50 in that category, according to NCAA statistics.
“Her toughness is understated,” Bruno said. “Chanise is very similar to [former DePaul guard and four-time team captain] Jean Lenti Ponsetto in her toughness in that she doesn’t act tough, she doesn’t show tough, but her game shows tough.”
Jenkins was named a unanimous All-Big East selection this year. She was selected to the preseason WNIT All-Tournament Team. She had 15 points and five assists in the Blue Demons’ upset of then-No. 15 Texas A&M and 13 points and eight assists in DePaul’s upset of then-No. 12 Northwestern.
Her 25 point and eight assist effort in a win over Marquette on Dec. 29 was highlighted by shooting 7-7 from the free throw line, including key ones in the final minutes. That perfection may have found its genesis when Jenkins was at Young, where she hit all five free throws in the final 17 seconds to seal Young’s first state title. Jenkins said after the Marquette game that she lives for those types of situations.
“It is a mixture of the way my parents brought me up, but also learning from the past. “[DePaul] has had a difficulty of making free throws this year and maybe some years before that, but I always took it upon myself to knock down free throws. And if it comes down to a free throw winning the game, I want to be the person taking that free throw.”
Jenkins is currently No. 6 all-time at DePaul in career free throw shooting percentage at 82.8%.
She was named in mid-December to the 2016 Naismith Trophy Women’s College Player of the Year- Early Season Watch List.
Jenkins is currently No. 3 all-time at DePaul in assists with 584; No. 11 all-time in steals with 211; and No. 19 all-time in points scored with 1,381. She is No. 4 all-time in single-season assists with 187 in her sophomore year and No. 10 in that category with 159 in her junior year.
“Chanise is one of the best guards I have ever coached, and she is one of the best leaders I have ever coached,” Bruno said. “She is all about the team, and that is what great leaders are all about.”
But as much as basketball means to Jenkins, and it means a lot as evidenced by her constant, intense game expression, there are things that mean more to her than playing a game.
Jenkins’ sister Chavonne is four years younger than Jenkins and was born deaf.
“Chavonne is my best friend,” said Jenkins. “I watched her struggle. She did not have many friends growing up. She took me underneath her wing, and we would sign and talk to each other every night. I would go out to Springfield to watch her play with her team from the Illinois School for the Deaf. It meant a lot to me to go out and watch her play and to be fearless in her own way and to be creative. I have always admired that about her. She never gave up, even though her team lost almost every game. I love her hard work and dedication to do something, and she never let anything stop her.”
And this, too.
In early December of 2015, Jenkins was nominated for the Allstate WBCA Good Works Team, a nomination based on a player’s dedication to service in their community.
Bruno’s teams perform community service each year as a reminder of the giving spirit of the Vincentians who founded DePaul. And there was Jenkins and her teammates on April 24, 2015, at the Union Station train station in Chicago’s Loop collecting donations for the Misericordia Home, a facility which helps support individuals with developmental disabilities.
Jenkins is currently working on a Master’s degree in Sports, Fitness and Recreation Leadership. She then hopes to play professionally and then coach.
Playing sports well locally and nationally is impressive, but the world is the final stage.
Jenkins was named co-captain of the USA Basketball Women’s World University Games team, which won the gold medal at the Games this past summer. That medal was the USA’s sixth consecutive gold medal and tenth overall at the World University Games.
The training camp in Colorado Springs gave Jenkins the opportunity to listen, learn, and lunge.
“I watched [UConn star] Moriah Jefferson and [Washington great] Kelsey Plum at the trials,” Jenkins said. “They were fearless and vocal and were trying to help everyone. I liked that and it inspired me to do the same. I started talking more and I started to lead by example. I jumped first in every drill to get myself out there and to make the most of every opportunity. “
And at any training camp, there is one person more than anybody else that players try to impress.
“One of the things that impressed me [and the coaching staff] was how hard Chanise worked, how great her attitude was, and her ability to finish plays and make shots,” USA head coach and Northwestern women’s basketball head coach Joe McKeown said in a recent phone interview. “She seemed to play with a lot of toughness.”
McKeown was familiar with Jenkins’ play from the annual DePaul/Northwestern games, and the international arena was an elevation of her play.
“I knew from being at Northwestern what impressed me was what she was doing at DePaul and going back to her being a great high school player in Chicago,” McKeown said. “But more than anything else I was so impressed with her leadership and her demeanor. The players loved being around her. And for her to be a captain, you wanted somebody who really did not care about the credit, and that is where I was really proud of her also.”
“She made big shots, she made big plays, and she was fearless. The biggest thing was she was so unselfish, and that really spread throughout our team. When we left training camp to go to Korea, to have her in a leadership position and to reinforce our message that when the players got back to college they were all going to be the best players on their teams, but just make the commitment here for the next three weeks to be unselfish and that nobody cares who gets the credit as long as we win, I thought she did a great job of relaying that message to our team.”
And that sharing mentality gets an assist from her family.
“That [unselfishness] definitely comes from my parents,” Jenkins said. “My mom was always the type of person that gave to everyone. She helps out in shelters and in a non-profit organization to help families. She passed that down to me and my sisters. And it was not just her, but my entire family. My dad always told me ‘it’s better to assist than to try and force something to happen.’ “
And as much running as Jenkins has done, it might be an episode involving walking that best summarizes her essence.
When DePaul was walking through the hallway to its locker room after beating Indiana in the preseason WNIT semifinals, there was Jenkins with her arm draped around the shoulders of DePaul reserve sophomore Lauren Prochaska, who had just played one of her better games at DePaul.
Sometimes even the great ones have to rest.