For DePaul families, trip to Louisville worth it

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Richard and Carla Jenkins cheer on their daughter Chanise in Louisville Sunday. Chanise Jenkins had 14 people to cheer her on as the Blue Demons beat Louisville to secure a spot in the Sweet Sixteen. (Matthew Paras / The DePaulia)

LOUISVILLE — Richard and Carla Jenkins left their Chicago home at 3 a.m. Friday to embark on a five-hour drive to Louisville, Kentucky. With them was a packed car, including five other family members.

For years, the Jenkins would see their daughter, Chanise, play basketball in person.  A five-hour drive to Louisville and work schedules wouldn’t stop that.

As it turns out, the trip was well worth the drive. They will get to see their daughter and the rest of the Blue Demons play in the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA tournament after a thrilling 73-72 win over Louisville on Sunday at the KFC Yum! Center.

“This win was so exciting,” Richard Jenkins said. “It came down to the last second. But one-point — It’s a win! We won!”

“Anything is worth it for DePaul Ball,” Richard Jenkins added later. Said Carla Jenkins:  “We love Coach (Doug) Bruno and the team.”

Chanise Jenkins had 14 people total there, including extended family. Richard Jenkins led the pack to cheer her and the Blue Demons, decorated in face paint with the number 13, the number his daughter wears.  Carla Jenkins, in similar fashion, sat behind the Blue Demons’ bench with a pair of poms-poms.

Their voices were heard, and when Chanise Jenkins finally greeted her family by stepping back onto the court after the game had ended, Jenkins was met with standing applause.

“My family is amazing, and I couldn’t thank them enough,” Chanise Jenkins said. “Just have that amazing support system is unreal.”

Similarly, Jeanette Robben made the three-hour drive from Germantown, Illinois to watch her granddaughter Brooke Schulte play. Robben and her husband actually saved two hours traveling to Louisville, as they’re used to the five-and-half hour drive to Chicago for each home game at McGrath-Phillips Arena.

The Robbens made the trip each day, driving on Friday and Sunday instead of staying through the weekend. She said she was exhausted by the end of the game, feeling like she had just played 40 minutes herself.

But she’s built a close support system through Schulte’s three years at DePaul.

“We’ve gotten to be close friends with a lot of the players’ parents,” Robben said. “We also go up to the dorms when we reach Chicago.  We bring cookies and sometimes we clean for (the players) too. So they like to see us.”

In other cases like Montral and Stefanie January, they ended up flying in to watch their daughter. Like the others, Jessica January’s parents often are at each home game.

And what a game they got to see. Montral January watched as his daughter erupted for 25 points, eight rebounds and five assists.

“I watch it as a fan,” Montral January said. “And I’m a fan of watching them play. I’m a fan because she’s my daughter, but I got so excited. You have the highs and lows just like everybody else. But it’s exciting. I’m so happy for them.”

For the Blue Demons, they’ll enjoy another trip to the Sweet Sixteen. It’s DePaul’s second in three years, this time facing Oregon State in Dallas on March 26.

No matter where they go, DePaul’s players can look in the stands and see familiar faces.

“I’m pretty sure they’re going to make the trip to Dallas,” Jenkins said with a grin.