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May 21, 2009

Nation's leading scorer preparing for college

MORE: Finley sets state, national record | Team runs win streak to 116

John Jenkins won't be spending this summer at the beach or near the pool.

While his buddies are out enjoying the good life after their senior year of high school, Jenkins will spend most of his time lifting weights, shooting baskets and taking classes at Vanderbilt University.

"Being a senior I wish I could hang out with my friends a little more, but I'll be the only freshman coming in," Jenkins said in a phone interview. "So I don't want to be behind or anything like that."

It's hard to imagine Jenkins falling behind anyone.

As a senior at Gallatin (Tenn.) Station Camp, the 6-foot-4, 208-pound Jenkins averaged 42.3 points and scored at least 30 in every game. He dropped 60 on Gallatin, the toughest opponent on Station Camp's schedule, and scored at least 50 in five other games. Jenkins finished his career as the No. 10 scorer in state history with 3,192 points, and he was named the state's Gatorade Player of the Year. Jenkins was also a two-time Mr. Basketball in Tennessee.

"What makes him so special is his work ethic," Station Camp coach Seth Massey said. "Obviously he has some God-given ability, but he's maximized what abilities he was given. He's one of those people that is very humble. He is a very hard worker, comes from a great family. He doesn't expect anything."

After graduating May 15, Jenkins plans to be in the McGugin Center at Vanderbilt this week to begin the next phase of his life. Classes begin June 1.

"I knew being in the SEC I had to get bigger," Jenkins said. "I'm in the weight room pretty much every day trying to get bigger."

Jenkins began shooting baskets with his father, John Jenkins II, in his driveway as a small child and continued to work on his shot as he got older.

"I've been playing since I was 5," he said. "Me and my dad used to go outside and shoot all day and all night. I didn't know what I was until eighth-grade year. I knew I had a chance to be good, but I didn't know I had a chance to be this good."

Massey said the misconception is that Jenkins is "just a catch-and-shoot guy," when in fact he's a dangerous scorer from anywhere on the court. Sure, Jenkins shot 50 percent from behind the 3-point arc, making 125 in total, but Massey says he's a combination of a younger Ray Allen and Kobe Bryant in terms of his scoring ability.

"He gets his shot off the dribble," Massey said. "He creates his own shot. He works of screens really well. He's a combination of Ray Allen running off screens and Kobe being able to put it on the floor. He just can create his own shot. He can penetrate and get to the hole."

Massey says Jenkins must improve his defense in order to contribute immediately at the next level, but he won't be at all surprised if he does.

"He's going to have to guard better," Massey said. "How much and how well he plays will depend on how well he defends. If he defends he can play big minutes early on."

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