Podkowa, Jenkins Ready for Phenomenal Finish
Feb. 25, 2016
CHICAGO - They have made quite an impact on the DePaul women's basketball program, this point guard who is a wizard at handling the ball and setting up teammates and a post player who has diversified her game to become a potent inside-outside threat.
Both Chanise Jenkins and Megan Podkowa were local legends before stepping onto the McGrath-Phillips Arena court. Jenkins was the heady playmaker at Whitney Young who led the Dolphins to their first state championship in 2008. She was a three-time All-State selection and rated the No. 14 point guard in the nation by ESPN as a senior. Podkowa was a matchup nightmare at Trinity in River Forest, a multi-talented 6-foot, 2-inch All-Stater who could handle the ball, shoot and pass like a point guard.
As No. 19/19 DePaul heads into the regular-season finale Saturday at Marquette, this pair of Blue Demon seniors had been a dynamic combination ever since arriving in Lincoln Park. Both were instrumental in DePaul's back-to-back BIG EAST Conference championships and advancing to the NCAA tournament Sweet 16 in 2014 that included a 104-100 victory over Oklahoma that was the highest-scoring regulation game in the history of the NCAA women's tournament. Right after that, the Blue Demons knocked off No. 2 seed Duke on its home court.
This season, Jenkins had a career-high 30 points on a career-high 10 three-pointers against Georgetown and a career mark for assists (10) against St. John's. She had 25 points in a win over Marquette along with eight assists, five rebounds and three steals. She came close to a triple-double with 13 points, eight rebounds and eight assists while Podkowa had 27 points, 14 rebounds, four assists and four blocks in a big win over then-No. 12 Northwestern.
"Chanise and Megan have been inspiring our team with their senior leadership all season and have been big-time players in big-time moments," said DePaul coach Doug Bruno, whose team has won or shared the last three BIG EAST regular-season titles. "They are two of the best to have ever come through our program.
"Trixie came here from Whitney Young with the reputation as a masterful ball-handler and distributor. She has become an excellent rebounder and defensive player while being able to score the ball when our team needs it. Her performance for the gold medal Team USA at last summer's World University Games signified her standing among the top collegiate players.
"Megan came here from Trinity after excelling on the perimeter throughout her high school career. She has worked hard to develop a strong inside game in addition to her outside shooting and has evolved into a more complete player.
"Chanise and Megan are two very talented players and two of the most special people I know. They are all about the team and are what `DePaulBall' is all about. They are two of the best all-around basketball players I have ever coached in 42 years."
Jenkins and Podkowa had to endure some trials and tribulations with their coach before emerging as mature young women and accomplished student-athletes.
"There was the time coach almost kicked me out of practice because I couldn't get a rebound over 6-3 Katherine Harry," Jenkins said about DePaul's third all-time leading rebounder . "That made me realize how much he expects out of me."
It wasn't always easy for Podkowa in her process of becoming an all-around player.
"There were all the times in practice that I cried," Podkowa said. "Coach would yell at me, but to be fair, I can be a pain at times."
Neither senior would have it any other way.
"I'll always remember how much he personally cares for us," Podkowa said about Bruno. "It's not just about making shots---he is concerned about us from an emotional, social and academic level. He wants us to have time to go out and make friends and enjoy life. It's something a lot of other players at other schools don't get. He recruits good players who are good people. I love all my teammates and we are going to be friends for the rest of my life. We share a really special bond that one else can share because of Doug.
"My freshman year, Anna Martin pulled me aside after coach had yelled at me in practice and said it wasn't about me. If he doesn't yell at you, he doesn't care. That's when it finally began to click. He wants me to be the best I can be.
"It's taken a while to fully grasp that. I'm an emotional person as all my teammates know, and coach is emotional. That has helped the respect factor between the two of us and is why we understand each other so well. When he begins to tear up about something, I'll do the same. When any of us are crying about something, he cries with us."
Jenkins listened to her teammate and nodded her head in agreement.
"People don't realize how much impact he has on our lives," Jenkins said. "I've talked to players from other teams all over the country, and some of them can't stand their coach. That's when you realize how fortunate you are to be at a place like DePaul and to play for a coach like Doug Bruno.
"Even more than our basketball skills, Doug worries about what we do off the court. It's about life lessons, and we do community service projects with him. Like Megan says, he emphasizes putting academics first because he knows basketball will come to an end. It will be time to get a job and make a living for ourselves.
"There are the little disciplines like tucking in your jersey and wearing stuff the right way. It seems so small, but it is so important. These little things will have a lot of impact in the real world."
They have each had quite an impact on the women's hoops program. Jenkins is currently third all-time in career assists and fifth in three-pointers. Podkowa is fifth in three-point percentage, sixth in blocked shots and ninth in rebounds. Both are members of DePaul's 1,000-point club.
As with just about every senior, the end is coming way too fast.
"It's surreal," Jenkins said. "I've been presented with so many great opportunities here and known some amazing people. It's kind of bittersweet that it's coming to an end.
"Coach Bruno and his staff have been awesome, and I've had so much encouragement and support from Jeanne (Athletics Director Jean Lenti Ponsetto) and the athletics department staff. I couldn't thank everyone enough.
"It hit me early in the season when I was reflecting back on things. Oh man, it's almost over. I'm hoping to continue my career by playing professionally. I'll try to play in the WNBA, and playing overseas is my second option."
Podkowa knows exactly what Jenkins is experiencing.
"One of my best memories is the trip to the Virgin Islands my freshman year for a tournament," Podkowa said. "We saw how beautiful it is over there and we went snorkeling. The trip to France was awesome, and I had a chance to travel and see the world.
"I remember sitting on a plane my sophomore year with the team and we were all huddled around each other watching on a computer to see if Marquette beat Creighton so we could clinch our first BIG EAST regular-season title. Marquette hit a three-pointer at the end to win it and we all started celebrating.
"When we play our last BIG EAST regular-season game, it will hit me that there isn't a lot of time left. Every game now has a lot more impact. We go into every game realizing the importance of it, but for Chanise and I, it means even more. The younger players want to send us out with a strong finish. We have to make the most out of each practice and every game. There's no guarantee we'll be in the NCAA tournament. This is our chance to show people just how good we really can be.
"We haven't scratched the surface of what we can do. There was the second half against Notre Dame and beating three nationally ranked opponents. The Connecticut game showed bits and pieces of our best, but our defense could have been better when they went on a run to close out the game. We're still looking forward to playing well the entire game."
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