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Video Vault: Justin Jenifer, The Newest Bearcat

Justin Jenifer has been a name in amature basketball cirlces for quite a while.

This is young Mr. Jenifer as an eighth grader

A incredibly well composed eighth grader but still. In clip he mentions that he was heading to the John Lucas camp, and there are highlights of that as well.

Justin Jenifer returned to the John Lucas camp a year later.

All the elements to his game that would come to bear later in his career were present when he was just a young pup. The command of the pace, the vision, the preternatural ability to finish through traffic at the rim at a smaller size. Its all there, just in embryonic form. Flash forward a couple of years and this is what you see.

A little more polish, a little more flare, he is a hugely advanced version of his younger self.

If you would like to see those same plays condensed into 70 seconds with a blazing track we have that too.

Then there is this piece from a Baltimore TV station after he was named the student athlete of the week.

If you want to see JJ vol. 2 in a game setting with his high school there is this, the first quarter of Milford Mill's game against Penn Wood High School. Watch all four, Justin is in green wearing number 3.

I like watching full games of guys, particularly when they play for their high schools because it makes it easier to get a more complete read on their game. With Jenifer it takes a little digging to find some worrying things, his indifference to rebounding, his occasional spacing out on defense. But its easier to find things to like, his vision, his passing, his ability to glide to rim and finish with traffic. Without a doubt his passing is the most advanced thing about his game, he makes passes that you don't seem many high school kids even attempt, let alone complete. At the 1:35 mark of the above video he makes a left handed 39 foot* bounce pass on the move, in semi transition, through traffic that hits his teammate perfectly in stride allowing him to go up for a dunk, a play on which he was fouled. That is a ridiculous pass for a high school kid to be making, but Jenifer seems to make similar passes as a matter of routine.

*Rough estimate using Google's handy pythagorean theorem calculator which I didn't know existed until about a minute ago.

Finally here is JJ playing in the nike EYBL. Its a short clip, but it sort of brings it all home.

There are many things about Justin Jenifer that don't scream "Mick Cronin" at first glance. He is not long for the position, he isn't an exceptional athlete in the mold of an Aquille Carr, Justin Jenifer is merely a very good one for the position. His defensive work needs a lot of attention. As long as he is on the floor the Bearcats will never be able to switch every screen as has become the norm for this program the last couple of years. But for all those points his game provides an answer. He has amazing vision for a player at this stage, his basketball IQ his very high, he finishes at the rim like a much larger man. He has the kind of ability to create space for himself that can only be forged through the crucible of usually being the shortest guy on the court. That same style also enables him to set up his teammates for relatively easy looks. All of these are skills that will translate to the college level.

That doesn't mean that there aren't things that he can work on with his game. His shot isn't Titus Rubles bad, but it could use some work, particularly his footwork. He will have to reign in some of his more extravagant passing foibles, even if the impulse behind them is a positive one. That would seem to be a case where his body isn't physically able to deliver the passes he sees on time and on target. With added strength that will come, but the same could be said about his game as a whole.

For years I have been preaching that Mick has needed to stop recruiting pure athletes that he can mold into great defensive players and OK offensive ones. For the Bearcats to take the proverbial next step they have to get better offensive players in the system. The recruiting that Mick and Co. have done over the last 18 months or so shows that they have seen the light.

The 2013 class was by far the most offense heavy of the bunch. Even with Jermaine Lawrence moving on that class still had Troy Caupain, Kevin Johnson and Deshaun Morman in it. That is as much skill and talent the Bearcats have had in the backcourt in the Mick Cronin era. Adding Farad Cobb who comes to the Bearcats with a reputation as an assassin and you can see Mick stockpiling backcourt assets.

Now there is Justin Jenifer, who won't be on campus for a good 12 months, but it is still the real signifier of the change in philosophy. Simply put he is the kind of player who Mick Cronin wouldn't have considered two or three years ago because he is small for the position, because he isn't a fall out of your chair kind of athlete. Justin Jenifer is just a good basketball player, and the Bearcats need more of those.