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Charles Jenkins working on his game and his ability to speak Italian

Hofstra's Charles Jenkins celebrates after hitting the game-winning

Hofstra's Charles Jenkins celebrates after hitting the game-winning three pointer at the buzzer of overtime against William & Mary. (Feb. 15, 2011) Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

When Charles Jenkins arrived in Milan to join his Italian basketball team, he went to the supermarket. Nobody spoke English. All the food packages were labeled in Italian. He was utterly lost.

"I was there for 45 minutes, an hour, and I bought five items," said former Hofstra star Jenkins, who had a brief career in the NBA.

Such is life as an overseas basketball player.

There will be no language barrier for the Pride's all-time leading scorer Sunday when his Olimpia Milano team faces Maccabi Tel Aviv in a 12:30 p.m. game at Madison Square Garden.

Jenkins, who was born in Brooklyn and grew up in Queens, scored 2,513 points for Hofstra before graduating in 2011.

And he is excited to return to New York.

"I haven't played in front of my family and friends in a long time," said Jenkins, whose last pro game here was in Brooklyn in April 2013 as a member of the 76ers.

Jenkins opted to play overseas the following season. He spent the 2013-14 and 2014-15 seasons with KK Crvena Zvezda Telekom in Serbia before signing this summer with Olimpia Milano, the New York Yankees of the Italian league. Milano has won 26 Italian league championships and numerous other titles.

The guard said he enjoys team-centric European basketball. There are drawbacks -- that language barrier and the long season that begins with training camp in August and ends with EuroLeague playoffs in May. But Jenkins said his overseas experience has helped him grow as a person, broadening his responsibility and cultural awareness.

When the going gets tough, he can always tap his NBA memories.

As a rookie with the Warriors in 2011-12, Jenkins filled in for Stephen Curry, who played only 26 games because of ankle injuries. He made 28 starts, got into 51 games and averaged 5.8 points, 3.3 assists and 1.2 turnovers.

All the while, he saw firsthand how hard Curry worked to get healthy. One particular memory stands out. Jenkins had just finished playing on the Warriors' 2012 NBA summer league team when he received a call from Curry, inviting him to come to Charlotte and work out.

"Even though he wasn't what he is now, to get a call from him as a rookie was like…" Jenkins said, trailing off into laughter.

Curry broke out the following year, reminding Jenkins of the benefits one can reap from working hard. But that and Jarrett Jack's arrival resulted in limited playing time for Jenkins. The Warriors dealt him to Philadelphia at the trade deadline.

After he was traded to the 76ers, he struggled to find a role and consistent playing time for coach Doug Collins.

"The worst thing as a basketball player is to not know your role or what you can do to help the team," Jenkins said. "It's like studying for an exam and then the next day, there's no exam."

No matter how slim Jenkins' chances are to return to the NBA, nobody can erase his career -- however brief -- at the highest level. He will forever be the 44th overall pick in the 2011 NBA draft, out of Hofstra, a program he said he still follows closely.

"From a basketball standpoint, as far as checking the things I've done in my career, I can definitely check that off," he said.

Jenkins said he does not view Sunday's game as an opportunity to catch a scout's eye. He's happy to continue his career overseas, 4,000 miles from home -- even if he needs to learn Italian to expedite his shopping trips.

"That," Jenkins said, "is going to take me a while."

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