B.J. Jenkins has never been allowed to be perfect.
Perhaps that’s why Murray State’s senior guard is so good.
If there is a leader on this balanced Racer club, most would say it is Jenkins, not only statistically, but emotionally as well.
He is Murray State’s second-leading scorer, leader in both steals and assists, and a high-percentage shooter from three-point range and the free-throw line.
Currently, it’s his success at the charity stripe that is drawing him national recognition.
Through Sunday’s games, he was the seventh-best free-throw shooter in the nation on a team that ranks 21st nationally in the same category, hitting 93.5 percent of his shots.
When things aren’t going well on the court, it’s almost always Jenkins attempting to rally his teammates vocally.
After losses, he’s usually one of the players selected to answer the media’s questions.
The list of things Jenkins has done right through his career as a Racer is a lengthy one, but when he gets calls from home, he usually receives an earful about what he could be doing rather than what he’s already done.
“I could play what I feel like is a perfect game, and she’ll let me know, ‘Well you went 3-for-7 from three, you should have made all seven,’” he says.
He’s speaking about his mother, Alicia Turner, who he credits with being the single most stabilizing force in his life.
When he gets too high, it’s Turner who brings him back to Earth.
She also knows, however, when to praise her son, who has often been accused of trying too hard to help the hyped-up Racers win early this season.
“That’s my best friend,” he says. “That’s my heart right there. ...(The criticism) is a good thing to have on your side, because that will keep you hungry, keep you working.”
Especially when it comes to significant but sometimes tedious aspects of the game.
Jenkins says his mother’s primary focuses are on turnovers and — you guessed it — free throws.
He likely got most of his basketball genes from his father, Robert Jenkins Sr., who played college ball at West Virginia and coached at Sacred Heart, where he helped the Pioneers win a Division II national championship in 1986, defeating Southeast Missouri State in the final.
But it was Turner who drove B.J. to the gym countless times as a kid and constantly pushed him to improvement.
“She always made sure I had a ball,” he says. “She would help me shoot free throws, work on my layups when I was a little kid.”
Turner never played basketball herself, but Jenkins says she is “heavy into” all sports. She is certainly knowledgeable enough about the game that she helped instill an appreciation of its details in her son.
“She never asks about my scoring,” Jenkins says. “She always talks about my turnovers or where I could have done better.”
Though he has struggled with turnovers against the Racers’ gauntlet of a schedule so far this season, free throws and taking care of the ball are two areas in which Jenkins’ game has historically been sound.
In 2009-10, when his assist-to-turnover ratio hovered around an impressive three-to-one, Turner was on her son to raise his numbers to four-to-one.
“She was like, ‘Cut the stupid passes, limit the showboat passes,’” he remembers. “I thought my numbers were pretty good.”
Geography keeps Turner from being a physical presence at most of Jenkins’ games.
She resides in Virginia Beach, Va., where she watches the Racers faithfully through the Ohio Valley Conference’s online television package or listens to Neal Bradley’s call online when she can’t see the Racers on regular TV.
She did make the OVC Tournament in Nashville last season, where she watched her son help Murray State to a championship victory and NCAA tournament berth.
But because she is virtually absent from home games, Jenkins’ Murray State teammates don’t know her in the same way as his high school cohorts did.
“Everybody knows B.J.’s mom in Virginia,” he quips. “She’s very supportive at games, but she treats everybody the same. If you didn’t know she was my mom, you would just think she was a die-hard fan.”
But though she isn’t physically present, Jenkins can usually count on a phone call from his mother shortly after Racer victories.
Because such calls usually include criticism and a call for Jenkins to take responsibility even when it’s his teammates who mess up, she usually gives her son time to cool down after losses.
“She’ll give me a couple of days before she calls me after we lose,” he says. “She knows I don’t really like to lose and I’m not really going to want to hear nothing she’s got to say.”
But inside, Jenkins knows that what his mother has to say is probably the best thing he could possibly be listening to.
“You need someone to keep it real with you,” he says. “Keep you pushing and grinding.”