Rhett "the Jet" Jenkins
Rhett Jenkins, otherwise known as “the Jet”, from Scranton PA, was a scoring superstar for the university's basketball team. Jenkins immediately faced a situation when he came to the university in 1965. For an unknown reason East Stroudsburg State College challenged Jenkin’s eligibility for the season, and it was found he lacked the academic credits to play in the 1964-65 season.
When “the Jet'' returned for the 1965-66 season he made an immediate impact on the team. The team went from a mediocre team to an elite one. In just a 3 game stretch in the 1965-66 season, Jenkins scored 81 points on 31 field goals. Simply put, he was an amazing scorer. In the same season, Rhett was named to the Middle Atlantic Conference (MAC) All-Star First Team.
In the 1967-68 season Jenkins joined the 1000 point club at the University of Scranton, the only player to reach this mark in two years of playing. Jenkins was again awarded MAC All-Star First Team for the 1967-68 season. He was also awarded the Les Dickman Award, which is given to the most outstanding senior.
Rhett was also a very talented pitcher for the university’s baseball team. In 1967 he was named Student Government Outstanding Athlete Award and Standout Pitcher for Royals Baseball.
It is impossible to know what Rhett’s experiences on campus were like, but it can be inferred that he was popular. Sports were much more popular on campus when Rhett played, then they are now, and anyone who went to a Scranton basketball game was amazed by “the Jet”. It was also common for Jenkins to have an entire page dedicated to him in the newspaper.
While Jenkins was a student athlete at the university there was a lot happening in the collegiate world as it pertains to Black athletes. In the 1960s, there was a massive crackdown by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) on funds violations. The athletes and coaching staff found to have committed violations were banned from the NCAA for life. The student athletes that were found to have committed violations were disproportionately Black. The majority of Black athletes that were found to have accepted financial bribes were also mainly from low-income backgrounds and colleges trying to recruit players took advantage of their situation. Who knows if this personally impacted Jenkins in any way, but simply the fact that he was a Black collegiate athlete while this was happening makes it noteworthy.
After his time at the University of Scranton, Rhett was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the U.S. Army, through the ROTC program. He spent the next 22 years of his life in the Army Infantry. Jenkins served in Vietnam with the 3rd Battalion 187th Infantry, 1st Brigade, 101st Airborne Division. He also served as an inspector general for the 7th Infantry Division at Fort Ord, California, and as a professor of military science and head of the ROTC department at South Carolina State University from 1986 to 1989. He retired with the rank of Lt. Colonel.
Rhett “the Jet” Jenkins was inducted into the University of Scranton’s “Wall of Fame” in 1978.
Lt. Colonel Rhett “the Jet” Jenkins died in 2019. Words can not describe the life that Rhett Jenkins lived and what he accomplished. It is important that we carry on his legacy and remember him for the amazing man he was.