Regardless of the outcome in Monday’s championship game of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, members of the Britt family from Upper Marlboro, Md., will be able to celebrate a national title with one participant.
But they also will have a runner-up to console.
For a pair of former youth-league basketball teammates who have lived under the same roof since 2007, this is the scenario that North Carolina guard Nate Britt and Villanova forward Kris Jenkins have dreamed of since both players chose to attend different colleges coming out of high school.
Jenkins, a starter for Villanova, called it “amazing and special” that he will face off against his brother’s team at NRG Stadium at 8:19 p.m. on TBS. Britt, a reserve for North Carolina, embraces the historical significance of having siblings on opposing sidelines in the NCAA title game.
“I understand that is a big story. That has probably never happened before,” said Britt, whose parents have been Jenkins’ legal guardians since 2007, at the request of Jenkins’ mother. “Everybody else might be a little more excited about it than we are. Because right now, we are just trying to focus on the game. But it has been fun.”
We hate to lose more than we like winning. That’s it, right there.
Villanova forward Kris Jenkins
When the nets are trimmed Monday, the joy ride will stop for the player on the losing team. Each participant admits he will feel some pain for the other. Britt said the two have “shared everything besides a toothbrush” since Jenkins joined the family nine years ago.
“That’s my brother, man,” Jenkins said. “We’ve been through everything together, grew up together. We’re not blood. But anything closer than that, that’s what we are.”
The parents caught in the crosshairs of this sibling rivalry, Melody Britt and Nate Britt Sr., have made plans to spend part of the game in the rooting section for each team. After the contest, Nate Sr. said he plans to celebrate with one and console the other.
“That’s the only way to handle it,” he said.
For the players, the contest represents the culmination of a shared dream. They crossed paths for the first time as competitors at an AAU tournament in Florida in 2004. Both were 10 and the victory went to Britt, whose father coached the team.
The next summer, Jenkins joined Britt’s AAU team and the boys developed a bond. Two years later, the separation of Jenkins’ parents and the death of his younger sister created a family dynamic that led Felicia Jenkins to request that the Britts become Jenkins’ legal guardians.
The younger Britt said having Jenkins in the house on a full-time basis “only added to our family.” But it made for some competitive moments around the house, with the boys trying to top one another in everything from video games to races up the stairs at bedtime.
“We hate to lose more than we like winning. That’s it, right there,” Jenkins said.
Whoever wins the game will have permanent bragging rights for the rest of our lives. I am super excited about it.
North Carolina guard Nate Britt
The best example came during a Villanova-North Carolina matchup in the 2013 NCAA Tournament, when both players were seniors in high school. Each had signed with his future school and they watched the contest in silence while seated in the same room, pausing only to exchange text messages laced with trash talk.
“We refused to talk to each other,” Jenkins said.
Britt recalled “giving it to each other,” particularly after North Carolina prevailed 78-71 in Kansas City. The schools meet Monday for the first time since that contest, with even higher stakes on the table.
13.6 Scoring average this season for Villanova forward Kris Jenkins
Jenkins, a junior, averages 13.6 points and 3.9 rebounds per game for the Wildcats (34-5). Britt, also a junior, is the first player off the bench in a deep rotation of guards at North Carolina (33-6). He averages 5.4 points and 1.9 assists per game. Neither player is his team’s primary offensive producer but both will play significant minutes Monday night.
Both players have envisioned and discussed the possibility of this matchup since they made their college selections in 2013. By mutual agreement, they stopped communicating Sunday with plans to reconnect after the game.
5.4 Scoring average this season for North Carolina guard Nate Britt
“After the game is when we’ll talk,” Jenkins said. “Hopefully, we can win so I can talk all the trash I want.”
Britt called the matchup “a win-win for the family” but not for the participants.
“Whoever wins the game will have permanent bragging rights for the rest of our lives,” Britt said. “I am super excited about it. Who else is better to beat than someone in your household? I’d love to have permanent bragging rights.”
Spoken like a true brother. Blood relation is optional.
North Carolina vs. Villanova
8:19 p.m. Monday, TBS