HOUSTON — Brothers Nate Britt and Kris Jenkins sat on opposite sides of a room in their Upper Marlboro, Md., home when North Carolina played Villanova in the 2013 NCAA Tournament.
The two high school seniors had already signed with the two programs — Britt to the Tar Heels and Jenkins to the Wildcats. So, naturally, trash talk ensued.
“At first, I don’t think we were even talking to each other,” Britt said.
“I think we were texting each other and talking trash back and forth. Emotions were high and the game was pretty close throughout.”
They watched the game not only as brothers but as competitors, too — something that comes easily in the Britt household, where races up the stairs or even to fasten a seatbelt are routine.
But when UNC and Villanova face off in tonight’s national championship game, no other competition could carry as much weight.
“I do hope he plays well and he’s injury-free,” Jenkins said. “But there’s nobody in the world I want to beat more than my brother.”
Jenkins and Britt are related by choice and not through genetics.
They met as 10-year-olds at an AAU tournament in Florida, and their parents stayed in touch. A year later, Jenkins joined Britt’s AAU team and the two developed a bond.
When Jenkins’ mother, Felicia, became the women’s basketball coach at Benedict College in Columbia S.C., she allowed Kris to continue playing AAU in Maryland and stay with the Britts.
The Britts then became Kris’ legal guardians in 2007.
“For them to do what they did for me,” Jenkins said, “it just shows what type of people they are, how high character they are and how they really love and care about me.
“I’m really blessed and fortunate to have two families.”
Jenkins and Britts’ relationship blossomed at Gonzaga College High School in Washington, D.C., where they played together and spent time with each other every day in class.
And when it came time for both players to start visiting colleges, they went on their recruiting trips together, too.
Playing basketball together in college wasn’t a priority for them, but it was Villanova’s interest in Britt that led Coach Jay Wright to Jenkins.
“We were recruiting Nate,” said Wright on Sunday.
“We liked Kris, but we thought he’s overweight and he’s not going to want to do all the stuff we do … When we met with Nate, we met with Kris. You heard all the things we’re saying to Nate, but you’re going to have to come in here and work hard, get your body fat tested.”
Shortly after the visit, Nate Britt Sr. told Wright that Jenkins loved the speech.
“If he loved that, we want this guy,” the Wildcats’ coach remembers thinking.
Jenkins ultimately landed at Villanova, and Britt chose the Tar Heels. And for the first time in their college careers, they will play each other in a game where the stakes couldn’t be any higher.
While Britt doesn’t know who his family will be rooting for tonight or what they will be wearing, he knows a win could give him an edge in their constant competition.
“This right here is permanent bragging rights for the rest of our lives.”
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