HOUSTON -- What are the odds of two brothers playing against each other in the NCAA national championship game? What are the odds if one had been adopted into the other’s family? And just to make it more improbable, what are the odds that their new family relationship began when they were 10 years old and had no clue their paths would lead them to Villanova and North Carolina?
No one would believe it, but that’s the true story Kris Jenkins and Nate Britt will be living out Monday night at NRG Stadium when Jenkins’ Wildcats challenge Britt’s Tar Heels for the title.
“There’s nobody in the world I want to beat more than my brother,” said Jenkins, who starts at forward for Villanova and was adopted into the Britt family with the consent and even the urging of his own parents. “It’s not a movie script. It’s amazing how it worked out, all the dedication and sacrifice, to have this opportunity. It’s special to our family.”
It took two special families to write such an amazing story. Jenkins and Britt, a backup guard for Carolina, first became acquainted playing AAU ball at the age of 10. Britt’s family lives in Upper Marlboro, Maryland, and Jenkins’ family often traveled from their home in South Carolina to be with a daughter who was under care at Johns Hopkins University hospital in Baltimore.
Jenkins’ mother, Felicia, who was an AAU basketball coach, worried about her son’s academic development and how her lifestyle moving around as a coach along with his father, who also coached, might affect her son. At some point, the Jenkins family developed a deep trust in the Britt family and saw an opportunity for Kris to have a stable life with them.
“I’m glad she did,” Kris said of his mother. “It turned out to be a blessing.”
Britt said his parents, Nate Sr. and Melody, are caring people by nature. They called a family meeting with him and his sister Natalya, and they all agreed to the idea.
“Any help that anyone needs, my family is usually willing,” Nate Jr. said. “In that case, Kris was in need, and we helped him out and now we’re here.”
In 2007, the Britts filed the paperwork to become Jenkins’ legal guardians, and the two boys quickly grew close.
“We were super-competitive, especially early on, because Kris was always looked at as the better player, and I didn’t like that,” Britt said. “We competed in everything, even to see who was the fastest one getting in the car.”
When Villanova returned to Philadelphia after winning the South Regional in Louisville, Kentucky, Jenkins headed over to the Wells Fargo Center to watch Nate and Carolina win the East Regional to send them both to the Final Four.
“I didn’t know he was coming, so that was pretty exciting,” Britt said. “That was big for me.”
Jenkins remains close with his parents and is in constant communication with his mother, who Villanova coach Jay Wright said also texts him on a daily basis.
“She’s tough, a [former] military person,” Wright said. “One of the quotes from her is: ‘Keep your foot on his throat.’ He’s used to being coached hard.”
Jenkins also is grateful for the love and dedication the Britts have shown him.
“The best memories have been all of them, not just this game,” Jenkins said. “They helped me become a man. I’ve got two families. I owe them everything.”
At the same time, he wants to beat brother Nate just as badly as Nate wants to win what he calls “permanent bragging rights.”
Asked who usually comes out ahead, Jenkins said, “We might be dead even.”
With a smile, he added, “This one here might be the tiebreaker.”