OU men's basketball: Jamal Bieniemy a subtle contributor for Sooners
NORMAN — An electric dunk. A dagger 3-pointer. A big block.
These are the things that crowds notice, that people look to when assessing a player’s ability on the basketball court. But there is more to basketball than what jumps out on a stat sheet, and that’s what Jamal Bieniemy has been bringing for Oklahoma this season.
The sophomore guard has been in a scoring slump this year, but he’s still found ways to contribute. What he does on the court is subtle but important. He is happy to play the roles that go unnoticed, and it matches his low-key attitude.
“If I didn't do those small things, I probably wouldn't be playing because it wouldn't be fun for me,” Bieniemy said.
Bieniemy’s struggle to see shots fall has been almost a constant throughout much of this season. But OU coach Lon Kruger has continuously praised Bieniemy’s ability to be effective in other parts of the game and remain a consistent player despite not making shots.
Bieniemy has the fourth-most rebounds per game on the team with 3.9, and his 2.8 assists average are a close second to junior guard Austin Reaves who averages 2.9 assists.
“He’s doing a lot of things well,” Kruger said of Bieniemy. “He’s moving the basketball. He’s getting us into stuff. He’s really good defensively and a communicator. He’s playing good basketball.
“And he’s getting good shots. We just need to get more of them to go down.”
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As a freshman, Bieniemy became a starter in mid-January and has been ever since. He got off to a strong start this season, scoring 15 and 13 points in the second a third games, but he has only scored in double digits twice since then. Still, Bieniemy is averaging 4.6 points per game so far this season, which isn’t far off his 4.9 points average from last year.
“As far as getting more shots, I think he’ll get more shots when he makes a couple and feels better about it,” Kruger said. “You can’t force a guy to shoot it more if he’s not thinking they are going in.”
Off the court, Bieniemy has a relaxed personality. His uncle Eric Bieniemy is the offensive coordinator for the Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs. Jamal is excited for his uncle but remains casual about Sunday's victory over the 49ers.
On the court, his play has that same subtlety but that hasn’t taken away from Bieniemy’s aggressiveness as a ball handler.
“I thought he was really good the other day in pushing the basketball in terms of being aggressive,” Kruger said.
The Sooners will need that aggression Tuesday night when they play Texas Tech. The Red Raiders have been one of the more defensive-minded teams in the Big 12 this season, and the Sooners will need good ball movement to generate good shots in the game. That starts with Bieniemy.
“(I’m) just doing whatever it takes to win,” Bieniemy said. “And at the end of the day as long as we get a win we all good.”
OU at Texas Tech
When: 8 p.m. Tuesday
Where: United Supermarkets Arena, Lubbock
TV: ESPN2 (Cox 28)
Radio: KRXO-FM 107.7