Hero shot for ‘Nova a personal thrill for LexCath alum
When Kris Jenkins hit his buzzer-beating three-pointer to give Villanova the NCAA title late Monday night in Houston, it was a shot heard ’round the nation.
And Lexington Catholic alum Cory Heitz’s reaction to Jenkins’ heroics was probably heard ’round Kendallville, Ind.
Heitz coached Jenkins at Gonzaga College High School in Washington, D.C., so he was pulling for his former player in the championship game against North Carolina.
Heitz said he watched the finals while visiting his 91-year-old grandmother in Kendallville, “and I absolutely screamed when that shot went in. I probably woke up the whole housing development. I cried a little bit, too. It’s emotional to see one of your guys hit one of the most iconic shots in basketball history. It was beautiful.”
Heitz played for Danny Haney at Lexington Catholic (class of 1995) and went on to play at the Air Force Academy.
He also was an assistant at Lexington Christian Academy for three years before moving on to as assistant’s position at Gonzaga.
“One of my responsibilities there was coaching the big men, and Kris Jenkins was one of the big guys I worked with every day his junior and senior years,” Heitz said.
Jenkins was a pudgy 6-foot-5 in high school, and wasn’t recruited by a many big-time schools. Villanova Coach Jay Wright was recruiting another Gonzaga player, Nate Britt, when he took a liking to Jenkins, who happened to be Britt’s adopted brother.
Britt played his senior year at Oak HIll Academy and wound up going to North Carolina. Jenkins wound up going to Villanova after he convinced Wright he would lose weight and get in shape.
“Kris was a gregarious kid, always smiling, a great personality and fun to be around,” Heitz said. “And he was the best high school player I’ve ever been around, hands down.
“A lot of people discounted him because of his size — he was always 10 or 20 pounds overweight — but he had great footwork and the best pure shot I’ve ever seen.”
Heitz doesn’t coach anymore. He’s in real estate development with his dad Mike in Lexington, but he stays connected to basketball as a consultant, helping kids find post-grad prep schools where they can improve their games.
And now when Heitz talks to high school players, he can tell them about the pudgy kid he helped coach at Gonzaga who grew into a Villanova folk hero.
Tuesday morning, Heitz was still excited about Kris Jenkins’ shot for the ages.
“Oh my goodness,” Heitz said. “I had a hard time sleeping last night.”
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