One thing more improbable than Hofstra point guard Charles Jenkins throwing out the first pitch at Citi Field 20 minutes from his Queens home would be the Springfield Gardens product being selected in the first round of the NBA Draft.
The first event happened last night, when Jenkins graced the Flushing diamond before the Mets' game against the Marlins. The first-round selection could come June 23. Several NBA executives view the versatile point guard as a mid-to-late first-round pick. Jenkins is on the Knicks' radar at No. 17 as team president Donnie Walsh is seeking a point guard of the future for the roster because centers are in short supply.
STAYING HOME: The Knicks, in the market for a young point guard, could select Hofstra's all-time leading scorer Charles Jenkins (above) with their first-round draft pick, the 17th selection overall.
"It would be great," Jenkins said of being taken by the Knicks. "For me having an opportunity playing in the NBA is great in itself. Whatever team I'll be excited about, but I would love the Knicks, growing up with my dad a big Knicks fan. Any time they played, it was definitely on the TV."
The Knicks will interview Jenkins at the pre-draft camp that takes place Thursday and Friday in Chicago, where he will go through a combine-style host of drills and tests for all teams. Jenkins could become the first New York City public school point guard to play in the NBA since Lincoln's Sebastian Telfair made it in 2004.
Because of his small-school background, Jenkins believes his draft stock hangs in the balance, pending his performance in Chicago and individual workouts that follow. He already has worked out for the Spurs.
"Where I go depends on how I work out, how I impress scouts in the workouts," Jenkins said. "It all depends on me. Projections by 'experts' are one thing. It all depends on how good I play."
The Knicks have Chauncey Billups, 35 years old and coming off a knee strain that knocked him out for most of the first-round playoff sweep against the Celtics. His backup is Toney Douglas, who the Knicks have deduced does not have the decision-making skills to be their playmaker of the future.
The 6-foot-3, 220-pound Jenkins, 22, may just have them. The Knicks also are looking at Boston College's Reggie Jackson and Georgia Tech's Iman Shumpert if they go the point guard route in the first round.
"He's a throwback point guard with a really good feel for the game," one NBA executive said. "He plays with a quiet confidence. He's more polished than Jackson. He's more savvy, more ready. Reggie is more of a scorer, maybe more upside, but Jenkins has more consistency and he's got a strong upper body on him."
Jenkins can see himself as a good fit at the Garden.
"They have great guards there already -- Chauncey is a veteran and Toney has done a great job," Jenkins said. "But they may have another opening for a guard to come in and make plays. If I have the opportunity to do so, I will. It's not about who's the best player available, but all about what a team needs.
"I can mix my size, speed and power to get in the lane and make plays. There aren't many point guards [in the draft] that have my size and speed that could do that."
Jenkins, lightly recruited out of high school, became the all-time leading scorer in Hofstra history, won the Haggerty Award for best metropolitan college player three times, equaling Chris Mullin and Jim McMillian. Jenkins is the second all-time scorer in Colonial Athletic Association history after David Robinson. But it's still the CAA -- not the ACC.
"It's not the biggest conference, but we played against a lot of tough conferences and I showed I can play against those conferences," Jenkins said. "I wasn't heavily recruited, but I gained a lot of respect from the players in the other conferences."
One drawback about joining the Knicks is their jersey No. 22 -- Dave DeBusschere's number -- is retired. Jenkins wears No. 22 in honor of his older brother, who was shot to death in 2001 in Brooklyn at the age of 22.
"My brother is one of the reasons I started playing basketball when I was younger," Jenkins said. "The love of the game I got from him."
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Hard to judge solely by highlights, but I like what I see. Clearly very strong physically at his position. Don't watch college ball, so if anyone can expound on his +/-, I'd appreciate it!