PHILADELPHIA — Thanks to the miracles of technology, Nate Britt was able to watch his brother, Villanova forward Kris Jenkins, advance to the Final Four on Saturday night.
The Tar Heels were at a team meal, watching the Wildcats beat No. 1 seed Kansas on a choppy stream on their cell phones.
“Before the meal started, we were watching it in our rooms so we knew it was a close game,” Britt told NBCSports.com. “Once we finished, we had five phones set up, leaning on cups. We had one person that was lagging by two seconds, one was lagging by ten seconds, so everyone was huddled around the one phone that was closest to game speed.”
Kris Jenkins was able to watch his brother, North Carolina’s back-up point guard, reach the Final Four from the front row behind UNC’s bench. And the best part about it? Britt had no idea that Jenkins would be there.
“I looked over in warmups and I only saw my parents,” Britt said. “But I knew my sister was coming so I was like, ‘I don’t see my sister, she has to be here somewhere.’ When we were doing the introductions, the starting five, I saw him sitting there and I was like, ‘Whoa, Kris is here!'”
What else was he supposed to do?
Villanova’s campus is 30 minutes away from the Wells Fargo Center. Was Jenkins really going to sit at home while his brother played an uber ride away?
The story of how these two are connected dates back nearly 12 years. Kris’ mother met the Britts during an AAU tournament in 2004, and the following summer Kris stayed with the Britt family in Upper Marlboro, Maryland, as the two were teammates in the D.C. Assault AAU program. But as Jenkins grew older, his grades started to slip and he started running with the wrong crowd in his hometown of Columbia, South Carolina, so his mother — Felicia Jenkins, currently an assistant coach for Jackson State’s women’s team — had him move in with the Britts and allowed them legal guardianship.
Jenkins became so close with the Britt family that he continued to live there his senior season his high school, after Nate had transferred out of Gonzaga HS and into prep powerhouse Oak Hill Academy.
“It feels like Kris has always been there,” Britt said. “He didn’t move in with me until I was like 12 years old, but when I think about it, it feels like he’s always been a part of our family.”
What made the night all-the-more special is that the two rarely get a chance to see each other play. They have their own practices and their own games while dealing with their own homework assignments and travel issues. The Big East doesn’t have any teams south of D.C., which is a good four hours from Chapel Hill, while the closest that Carolina gets to Philly is a trip to Pittsburgh, which is still nearly five hours away.
Britt was able to get to Brooklyn to see Villanova play over Thanksgiving, but those opportunities are few and far between, the games far less meaningful than a Regional Final.
“It’s amazing,” Jenkins said.
“It was extremely cool he was here for this,” Britt added.
Jenkins also provided some added motivation. More than just the opportunity to potentially compete against each other for a national title, Britt didn’t want to let Jenkins be the only one in the house with a Final Four snapback. They’re brothers, but they’re also competitors. Bragging rights mean everything, whether it’s spades, NBA2K or a trip to Houston for the Final Four.
“I saw him with the hat on, and I was like, ‘I’ve got to get one of those hats,'” Britt said.
But here’s the catch: Jenkins wasn’t wearing his Final Four hat. It was just a random black snapback. Bragging rights matter down the road, but on this night, Jenkins didn’t want to step on his brother’s shine.
“This is his night.”