Michelle Smith: Jordyn Jenkins and USC women's basketball 'know their worth'
On this day, Jordyn Jenkins was appreciating a little Southern California sunshine. This Kirkland, Washington native, who is used to the damp Pacific Northwest chill this time of year, jokes that she has “adapted.”
In more ways than one, clearly. The USC sophomore forward has found her footing in college basketball this season, and settled in to become one of the Trojans’ most reliable players heading into the weekend’s rivalry matchups with UCLA.
Jenkins leads USC in scoring at 13.1 points per game and is one of only four players on the roster to play in all 14 games this season. She has upped that scoring average to 18.0 points a game since Pac-12 play began.
“She’s been our most consistent frontcourt scorer,” said USC coach Lindsay Gottlieb.
Jenkins was a player that Gottlieb recruited when she was the head coach at Cal. Gottlieb knew what kind of player she was inheriting when she took the job at USC last year.
“She’s very crafty and she’s an excellent finisher,” Gottlieb said. “She reminds me of (former Cal standout) Ashley Walker. She always finds a way to score.”
In her senior year at Kentridge High, the five-star recruit sustained an ACL injury that cost her the first games of her prep career. And she missed the first eight games of last season.
“She basically missed a season and a half,” Gottlieb said.
Jenkins said when she returned to the floor last season, she was anxious, but not in the kind of game-shape she thought she was.
“This year, I was much closer to 100 percent," she said. "I would say I’m high-90’s now and I’m in way better shape than I was last year, which I think is one of the reasons I’m being a better contributor."
Jenkins admitted last year was difficult with COVID protocols limiting contact with teammates and their ability to bond and form on-court chemistry.
“This year, we hang out together so much more and I think that reflects on and off the court,” Jenkins said. “Mentally, things are much better this year and so is my confidence, which is something I’ve struggled with. But getting into the gym with my teammates and working on my game has made a big difference.”
Jenkins is playing alongside Alissa Pili, the 2020 Pac-12 Freshman of the Year, and freshman post Rayah Marshall, who is already in the running for the same award, collecting 33 blocks to put her among the nation's leaders. That gives the Trojans one of the conference’s best young frontcourts.
USC’s versatility, and ability to shoot from the perimeter, will make this team a scary matchup for the rest of the conference season.
“Things are going in the direction we want,” Jenkins said of her team, which is 9-5 overall and 2-2 in conference play, “We have so much potential and talent and I think we can be unstoppable."
After beating Arizona two weeks ago, the program’s first win over a top-five opponent since 2014, and then a tough weekend split against the Washington schools, which included a 73-66 win over the Huskies and a career-high 24 points from Jenkins, including three 3-pointers, Jenkins said she feels like the Trojans 'know their worth.'”
Jenkins, who celebrated her 20th birthday on the same day that she scored her career-high last weekend, said she knows she is on a winning team with a bright future.
“We want to make it to the tournament, that’s our goal,” Jenkins said. “I don’t want to lose and I don’t want this team to lose. That’s what motivates me, I don’t want anyone to be better than us.”