Chanise Jenkins came home with her first gold medal at the World University Games in South Korea.
July 27, 2015
CHICAGO - If Chanise Jenkins gets one of those assignments writing a paper about "How I Spent My Summer," she should rack up a top grade recalling her experience playing basketball for her country on the other side of the world.
From an up-close look at the Korean DMZ (Demilitarized Zone) to competing in the World University Games in South Korea, Jenkins had a summer she won't soon forget.
The quest for the gold medal began appropriately enough for the USA Basketball Women's World University Games team on the 4th of July at Dongkang College in the city of Gwangju with an 80-68 victory over Italy in which Jenkins contributed five points, one rebound and one assist.
Two days later, the Blue Demon point guard directed Team USA to a 90-75 win over China and a 92-54 triumph over Czech Republic. For the day, Jenkins had nine points, five rebounds, three assists and two steals.
In an 84-43 win over Hungary in the July 9 quarterfinals, Jenkins came away with six points, two rebounds, two steals and a blocked shot.
Mixed in with her first taste of elite international competition, Jenkins had opportunities to fraternize with her teammates and sample the culture of South Korea.
"It was really cool, a breath-taking experience and something I will never forget," Jenkins said. "Going to the Korean DMV, a strip of land on the border of North and South Korea, gave you so much insight into the history and conflict of those two countries.
"It was very scary. There were armed soldiers who had to guard us. I thought this was something our coach Doug Bruno would have really appreciated.
"We played a practice game against a military team that had all guys and one female who had a good little jump shot. The guys did not take it easy, and that helped get us prepared for the tournament."
When it came to exploring a new culture, Jenkins jumped in with both feet.
"I enjoyed our walks to the food places and getting to know each other better," Jenkins said about her Team USA teammates. "I tried Korean food including Korean barbecue, Korean noodles and Kimchi which is a super-spicy side dish of cabbage, radish and scallions. I tried it because I like spicy food.
"There was a cafeteria open 24 hours in our World University Games village, and players from all the other countries would eat there. Sometimes you would eat as a team and other times you were on your own.
"I got to know everybody on the team, and the ones I hung out with the most were Aerial Powers from Michigan State, Courtney Williams from USF, Katie Hempen of Arizona State and Tennessee's 6-6 center Mercedes Russell."
It was her buddy Russell who led the USA to a tension-filled 102-98 double-overtime victory over Japan in the July 10 semifinals. Trailing by 15 in the first quarter, the Americans battled back behind Russell to force the extra periods and outscored the Japanese 16-12 in the second overtime. Japan hit eight 3-pointers in the loss.
"Japan was our toughest game, and it was crazy and exciting," Jenkins said. "Not to take anything away from Canada (title game), but it felt like we just won a gold medal. After falling behind, we got ourselves together and played like a team to get that win.
"Other countries had their own style of play, especially Japan. You're not sure when they're going to shoot, and suddenly they let it fly. They are really good shooters that reminded me of DePaul."
Jenkins & Co. cruised past our neighbor to the north 82-63 for the USA's sixth consecutive gold medal and 10th overall at the World University Games. Jenkins, Sydney Wiese (Oregon State) and Powers buried three-pointers to help build a 31-23 halftime lead. Jenkins contributed four points, one rebound and one assist as Powers led the gold medalists with 27 points and nine rebounds.
"My first gold medal felt great, and I give all glory to God," Jenkins said. "I've been through a lot of adversity in my life, and overcoming all of that was gratifying. This gave me lots of motivation going into next season."
Jenkins discovered the international game is different from the one played by the NCAA.
"One of the biggest differences with the international game is that you couldn't take a step before you dribble," Jenkins said. "We must have gotten called for traveling 20 times in our first game.
"It's also a much more physical game. You could hand-check and make contact with your arm as much as you want. That made it more challenging and fun on offense and much easier to play defense. The refs gave you more leeway on defense, and it was easier to stop the ball.
"The free-throw lanes are much wider and our post players had to be careful to get in and out quickly. There is also just eight seconds to bring the ball over half-court and the shot clock is only 24 seconds."
Jenkins returned to Lincoln Park as a more complete player.
"What I took away from this experience is to always have a positive attitude and constantly talk to your teammates," Jenkins said. "I've returned to DePaul looking to be a more vocal leader. The times when we struggled at the World University Games, it was a lack of communication that separated us.
"When I look back, well, we have a talented team at DePaul. I believe any one of my teammates could have made the USA team and won a gold medal."
Jenkins made sure to bring home USA pins for each of her Blue Demon teammates. She also brought back some special gifts for her family.
"I gave my mom a Korean plate with a special, traditional design," Jenkins said. "I got my sister a set of drinking glasses with a frog design that represents good will.
"Everywhere I go, I bring back a lighter for my dad. Now, he has a Korean lighter to add to his collection."
And Chanise Jenkins has a gold medal she can add to her trophy case.