HOUSTON — Monday night’s national title game will be a family affair for Villanova’s Kris Jenkins and North Carolina’s Nate Britt.
The two juniors don’t share a last name or play the same position, but Britt and Jenkins have, legally, been brothers since they were 12 years old.
The former grassroots teammates grew close when they were kids, with Jenkins making the permanent move into the Britt household when Kris was spending a lot of time with Nate away his former home in South Carolina. After a year or so of constant visits, Jenkins’ mother asked if the Britts could take responsibility for Kris and Melody Britt and Nate Britt Sr. became his legal guardians.
Now, the former high school teammates at Gonzaga College Prep in Washington D.C. will play against each other for the first time in college — on the sport’s biggest stage.
“We talked about it as it got closer to actually happening but not prior to college or when we were in high school,” Britt said after North Carolina’s Final Four win over Syracuse. “This was never a conversation. We talked about playing each other at some point, possibly in the tournament, but never the championship game.”
It’s unlikely that Britt and Jenkins will guard each other one-on-one since they play different positions, but Britt is prepared to face his brother if Villanova opts to switch on defense as they’ve frequently done during the season. The trash talking between the two fiery competitors hasn’t started yet, but Britt is sure that words will be exchanged once the ball is tipped — if the trash talking doesn’t begin sooner over text message.
“We definitely will be talking some between now and the next game,” Britt said. “I don’t know if any trash talking will get started up yet but it will probably happen in the game, I’m pretty sure.
“I think I’m the best trash talker on our team, actually. I can get in somebody’s head. If it gets started, I’ll come on top in the trash talking.”
The winner of the trash talk is one thing, but winning the national championship is obviously the major concern for both players and both teams entering Monday night. Britt and Jenkins aren’t going to hold anything back and it will likely be difficult for the families to get through the game trying to remain as neutral as possible.
“It’s something that we’ll have to cherish forever. It’ll mean a lot to us and a lot to our family. Monday will be something special,” Jenkins said.
“It means everything to us. I think it means a lot more to our families,” Britt said. “They’ve put in a lot of time into us being the young men that we are now. This is just one of the ways that it’s showing that the work they’ve put into us is paying off.”
Monday’s championship game will also be tough for the brothers as they figure out the odd balance of wanting individual success for each other while also hoping each other losses. With the way Jenkins is rolling these last few months, he’s the player to most likely have a big impact during the title game, but Britt is hoping it isn’t enough for a Villanova national title victory.
“I hope he plays well, but that’s about it. I definitely don’t want him to win,” Britt said with a smile. “This will be permanent bragging rights in the house so I want to come out on top. There’s no part of me that wants Villanova to win.”