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Villanova star Kris Jenkins' mother coaches Kingsway High girls' basketball team

She flew up from South Carolina almost out of curiosity. When you open yourself up to basketball, when you "make it your own," Felicia Jenkins will tell you, it can take you places you've never imagined.

She flew here from South Carolina almost out of curiosity.

When you open yourself up to basketball, when you "make it your own," Felicia Jenkins will tell you, it can take you places you've never imagined.

And so, when she arrived at Kingsway High School, in the middle of deep South Jersey, she arrived empty-handed for an interview to be the team's next girls' basketball coach.

No briefcase. No resumé. No plays or clipboards or coaching packets. Just Jenkins, and all of the energy and passion and love for the game that feeds her soul.

"I wanted to make sure that I interviewed the right way," said Jenkins, who is about to embark on her first season as head of the Dragons. "It wasn't about the show. It wasn't about the accolades. I wanted them to see the person. I wanted them to invest in the person who was going to come in here and invest in these kids."

Nine months ago, Jenkins' son, Kris, hit a three-pointer from the top of the arc, a buzzer-beater in the NCAA championship game. It was a shot that sealed the title for Villanova in one of the most dramatic championship games the sport has seen.

It was one of those moments when the game actually did give something tangible back to Felicia Jenkins and her family, something of a reward for a lifetime spent together.

Basketball and life, she thinks, sometimes walk hand-in-hand.

And when she reflects on that moment - which she often does, of course - the biggest positive was how it revealed what kind of man her son had grown into.

"You can not even tell that he hit that shot," she said. "I watch how he handles himself, how people handle him, all of the attention he gets. And for some, it would be overwhelming. For him, you would never know. It never changed him.

"And I told him if he can do that for me - never change - I think I would be the proudest mom who ever walked the face of this earth."

This is what coaching means to Jenkins. It's about the life lessons the sport can impart. And this is what brought her up the East Coast, uncharted territory for the woman who has spent her life in the South, to try to lend some wisdom to Kingsway.

Jenkins' coaching career started at her alma mater, Eau Claire High School in South Carolina, where she was a star player. She later coached at her college alma mater, Claflin University. There is a trend in Jenkins' past: Her passion when it comes to basketball tends to the infectious.

She made coaching stops at Benedict College and Jackson State University before giving up coaching in 2013 to focus on taking care of her family - including daughters Kai, a junior, and Kelci, a sophomore, who now play for her at Kingsway.

Family and basketball have been linked in every stage of her life. The game, she said, was solace when her 11-month-old daughter died in 1996. Being in a gym, bouncing a ball, putting shots up brought peace when she couldn't be with Kris as he traveled the AAU basketball circuit and was away from her for long stretches.

"When everything else fell apart, we always had basketball," she said. "It was that one thing that kept the normalcy in our lives. It was that one thing. It was a place where I could find my peace."

The opportunity to go to Kingsway was first presented to Jenkins by Jeanine Delaney, the mother of Villanova guard Tim Delaney, who works at Kingsway.

Others supported the idea. They, like so many throughout the years, could see Jenkins' passion for the game.

They knew that she was the one who taught her son how to shoot a basketball, planting the seeds for one of the smoothest strokes in the NCAA. They pushed her to get back into the sport she loved.

Now that she's here she said it feels like home.

"They have really gone above and beyond with open arms to give me the warmest welcome I've pretty much ever felt," she said. "This probably has been the best move we've had."

It's also given her a chance to see her son play. Last year at this time she was working nights at an Amazon distribution center in South Carolina, receiving Villanova updates on her phone during breaks. She saw just three games in person, including the championship game.

Now she's a regular.

"It's a move for my family," Jenkins said. "My dad is with me, my two daughters, and my nephew. And they've never really gotten to see Kristopher play in person. So this is something that has really brought us all closer together."

It's also a move that brings an added dimension to South Jersey. If nothing else, the area just got an outspoken advocate for the sport, a proud voice for how it can change a person's life and why it's worth the sacrifice.

"If I can get these girls to play with passion on every play, to be known for something, then I've succeeded," Jenkins said. "I want them to own the sport for themselves. When they do that, the sky is the limit."