Wednesday, January 22, 1997
The 6-foot-7 sophomore forward has been the bright spot in the University of Hawaii at Hilo's often gray season, leading the 4-10 Vulcans in scoring, rebounding and blocked shots.
He's the top-ranked player in the Pacific West Conference, based on cumulative point totals from eight statistical categories. Jenkins leads the PacWest in rebounding and blocks, second in scoring and fourth in field goal percentage.
Jenkins also earned a huge assist earlier when he helped convince Amiri Johnson, a 6-5, 240-pound forward, also from Philadelphia, to transfer from San Diego State to Hilo for next season.
"Merriel is a very unique player," said Vulcan coach Jim Forkum. "He didn't have any interest in high school basketball. He was getting challenged enough on the playground.
"He's been carrying a lot of the load for us this year. One of the disappointments is that we haven't been able to consistently give him much help in scoring and rebounding. We've been playing a lot of young guys, starting three sophomores and two freshmen. There's been extra strain on Merriel to carry us."
Not that Jenkins is new to challenges. Or doesn't rise above them.
An academic non-qualifier out of high school, Jenkins ended up at Lassen College in California last season - playing with current University of Hawaii forward Mike Robinson. Jenkins ended up the MVP of the league as a freshman, as well as the team MVP.
Having proved he could play in college, Jenkins was ready to move on again. Had he stayed a Lassen for his sophomore season and earned his associate's degree, he would have been eligible to play in Division I.
Instead, he chose the Division II Vulcans, joining Rodney Odrick, a friend from Philadelphia. Odrick, a sophomore guard, is the Vulcan leader in assists.
"I like it here, especially the weather," said Jenkins, averaging 22.7 points and 9.7 rebounds. "The biggest adjustment was the food and not being able to drive and go somewhere.
"I think the win last week (over Seattle Pacific) gave us some confidence. A young team has got to start somewhere."
If the pros don't come calling by the time his Vulcan career is through, Jenkins wants to finish his degree and return to Philadelphia to teach school.
Darnell Clavon, a 6-1 junior guard for Chaminade, was named Player of the Week yesterday in the Hawaii Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.
In three games last week, Clavon led the Silverswords to two victories with 61 points, 17 rebounds, 13 assists and four steals. He had 20 points and six rebounds in Monday's near upset of Brigham Young-Hawaii, including a layup that tied the game at 63-63 with 42 seconds to go.
Chaminade has often had its name mispronounced since stunning No. 1 Virginia in 1982. The day after the Silverswords lost at Arizona State, an Arizona Republic columnist wrote: "I always thought Chaminade was a Western dance."
Saturday night's win over Central Washington was the 200th career victory for Hawaii Pacific coach Tony Sellitto. His first came in 1988 at Southern Oregon State.
Sellitto has never had a losing season since taking over in 1988. His lowest winning percentage is .516 from the inaugural 16-15 season.
Since winning the 1993 NAIA title, Sellitto's teams are126-30 (.808).
One Hawaii team went one way, the second another in the NAIA poll released yesterday.
UP AND DOWN
Hawaii Pacific (16-2) moved two spots from sixth to fourth in the latest rankings. Brigham Young-Hawaii (14-3) slipped a notch from 11th to 12th.
Brandyn Akana of Brigham Young-Hawaii and Hawaii Pacific's Juergen Malbeck continued to rank among the national NAIA statistical leaders.
Akana, a junior guard, is second in free throw percentage at .887 (55 of 62). The national leader is Shad Miller of John Brown, who is hitting .938 from the line (91 of 97).
Malbeck, a 7-1 senior center, is fifth in field goal percentage. In 18 games, he is shooting 67 percent from the floor (128 of 191.
HPU is No. 7 in scoring margin (+19.78 points) and 10th in scoring offense (90.45 ppg). BYU-Hawaii rankes fifth in field goal percentage (.536).