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At St. Joseph Catholic High, one man is head basketball coach for boys and girls varsity teams

By Patrick Carr - | Nov 26, 2021

Patrick Carr, Standard-Examiner

Jamaal Jenkins talks to the St. Joseph Catholic High boys basketball team during a game on Wednesday, Nov. 17, 2021 at St. Joseph High in Ogden.

Back on Nov. 17, the St. Joseph Catholic High girls basketball team took the floor for its first game of the year.

New head coach Jamaal Jenkins brought the nine-player team together in a huddle and eventually, the starting five took their spots for the opening tipoff.

When the game was over, a 36-22 win against Merit Prep where the Jayhawks led 28-6 after three quarters, the team went into the locker room.

Jenkins and the assistant coaches, Mario Prieto and Adam Jones, didn’t. They sat on the bench while the St. Joseph boys team warmed up.

This wasn’t a one-night-only novelty gaffe or anything like that. This is what the bench will look like for each St. Joseph girls and boys basketball game this season. At least, that’s the plan.

This will be Jenkins’ third season as the SJC boys head coach. Jenkins, a former Weber State basketball player in the early 2000s, says he just loves to coach and teach.

“One of the things when I first took the job with the boys was I wanted to kind of change the culture and make it understood that there’s all types of places all over the world where you can be a top-notch athlete and an academic at the same time, you don’t have to pick one or the other,” he said.

How did Jenkins end up the head coach of both teams?

When Kelsey Stireman left as the St. Joseph girls head coach, Jenkins went to school administrators and said he wanted the girls team, too.

St. Joseph technically didn’t open the girls head coach job. School administration asked Jenkins how he’d handle the logistics of coaching two teams, the school was apparently satisfied with the answer and Jenkins officially became the girls head coach in October.

Patrick Carr, Standard-Examiner

Jamaal Jenkins, center, runs through a play for the St. Joseph Catholic High girls basketball team during a joint practice Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021.

Jenkins previously ran an AAU basketball program, so he said coaching two basketball teams simultaneously isn’t hard.

“Piece of cake. It’s just about being relative to the kids and being efficient with what you do with your time,” Jenkins said.

It helps that the teams are somewhat small. There are nine players in the girls program, seven of whom are freshmen, and they only have a varsity team.

There are about 17 players in the boys program, which fields a JV team and a varsity team. The teams practice together most of the time and, on many occasions, have games at the same place on the same day.

Plenty of weeks, though, St. Joseph has a girls game and a boys practice one day, a boys game and girls practice the next day, and two games the next day.

Does Jenkins get tired coaching two games back to back? It didn’t look like back on Nov. 16, anyway.

Jenkins sat for all of five minutes between the season-opening girls and boys games, stood and yelled the entire first half of the boys game and was still yelling at times in the second half.

He apparently couldn’t yell loud enough to get a timeout called in the first quarter of either game, despite the entire crowd hearing him.

But that was just the first game of the season. Eventually, the region schedule in the winter will have two games per week for both the girls and boys. Jenkins doesn’t think it’ll be difficult to manage that, either.

Patrick Carr, Standard-Examiner

Jamaal Jenkins runs practice for both the St. Joseph Catholic High girls and boys basketball teams during a joint practice Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021.

“The biggest thing for me was making sure that the people that I have on staff, they’re great basketball minds first and they can handle the same type of workload that I can handle so I can lean and trust them,” Jenkins said.

After a week-plus of the season, things are going OK for both squads. The girls team is 1-1 after beating Merit Prep 36-22 in the season opener and losing to American Heritage 57-38.

The St. Joseph girls might also be the youngest varsity team in the state with seven freshmen and two juniors.

The boys team is 1-2, matching its 2020-21 win total, after it handled Merit Prep 85-68 in the opener, lost big at Providence Hall and lost in overtime to Telos Academy (Orem).

Region 17 figures to be more competitive for both the girls and boys teams now that Layton Christian departed and went up to 3A.

“I’m privileged to be here,” Jenkins said. “It’s not a powerhouse situation. We might win state one of these years, we might never win state, but for me, being able to see them have a good time and dedicate themselves to something, that means the world to me.”

Jenkins is especially happy to be on the court considering the alternative, which he was pretty blunt about: he almost died last year.

A trip to the emergency room last summer after dealing with fatigue and abnormal weight gain turned into a pretty quick trip to McKay-Dee Hospital.

Jenkins was diagnosed with congestive heart failure and had to have emergency surgery. Doctors told him his heart ejection fraction, which measures how much blood the heart’s left ventricle pumps out with each contraction, was at 30%.

According to the American Heart Association, a normal heart ejection fraction is roughly 50-70%.

“Once I knew what it was, I still — you can’t really wrap your mind around what it is until it got bad. They’re telling me about these surgeries, I’m having to get IVs in my neck, I was in the ICU by myself because of COVID for 2 1/2, three weeks,” Jenkins said.

More than a year after that episode and Jenkins has recovered, going from a couple handfuls of pills per day to just two. Even if coaching two varsity basketball teams is a lot of work and stress, Jenkins is just happy to be here.


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