LINCOLN PARK — March Madness features many college hoops players, both male and female, who learned on the fertile basketball courts of Chicago.
Only one current postseason, Big Dance player — Chanise Jenkins, a member of the DePaul University women's team — stayed here to compete collegiately.
"It's your city, you own it," said Jenkins, a sophomore guard who was born and raised in Roseland on the city's Far South Side.
Chicago's male star prospects like Jabari Parker (Duke) left the state to get to the NCAAs, and the city's top two prospects Jahlil Okafor (Duke) and Cliff Alexander (Kansas) will likely be dancing next spring. On the women's side, there are five other female players from Chicago in the NCAA tournament but they, too, departed the city to play.
For Jenkins, there was never any doubt she would stay in Chicago, she said.
"I always feel like people from the city should play for their home city," Jenkins said. "You just have to own the city. That's how I always look at it. I'm from the city. I'm home bred."
Indeed, her grandfather and two aunts are DePaul alumni.
"It feels great to be able to play in my home city," she added.
The seventh-seeded Blue Demons left for North Carolina Thursday morning after a pep rally at the McGrath Arena and are set to play 10th-seeded Oklahoma Saturday afternoon. The team is coming off a 65-57 victory in the Big East Tournament championship over St. John's and are riding a seven-game winning streak into the NCAA tourney.
They will play their first game at 12:30 p.m., which will be televised on ESPN2.
In last year's tournament, the Blue Demons fell to Oklahoma State 73-56 in the first round.
Jenkins has had her share of success in the basketball world having won three Chicago Public League championships while playing at Whitney Young. As a freshman she helped seal Whitney Young's first state championship in 2008 by nailing five of her final free throws in the last 17 seconds of the game.
"Chanise is one of those kids. She just loves Chicago," said Whitney Young's head coach Corry Irvin. "I knew she was going to DePaul to stay and play in front of her hometown fans."
Of the six Chicago high school players in the women's NCAA tournament, five are Whitney Young graduates. Western Kentucky guard Chanell Lockhart (Chicago Vocational) is the only city-school product in the tourney who didn't attend Whitney Young.
Jenkins is a red-shirt sophomore this year after sitting out her entire true freshman year in 2011-2012 following an ankle injury.
In her first season, Jenkins earned all-Big East Freshman team honors, but said she finally feels like she has a leadership role on the team this year heading into the tournament.
"This year it's just more experience and more of a focused challenge," she said.
There is only one thing on her and the rest of the Blue Demons' minds: winning that first game Saturday afternoon and taking it from there.
"We've played in some big games this year," Jenkins said. "Now going into the tournament, we are having the same mindset."
CONTRIBUTING: Justin Breen