Since Cashmere Wright left Cincinnati, the Bearcats have been without a true point guard or at least one that is a pure passer. Wright, a 6-foot sidekick to Sean Kilpatrick, averaged 3.5 assists per game in his four seasons and is the last player to average at least four dimes per game, dropping 4.6 a night during the 2011-12 season.
After Wright left, Kilpatrick and Troy Caupain became the top distributors. However, as we know, Kilpatrick was relied on for his scoring more than passing, even though he showed improvement as a passer throughout his career. Caupain, who led the team in assists last season (3.6 apg), is also a player more comfortable with finding his own shot that searching for one's for his teammates.
If we're going to be honest with each other (and that's how I hope this writer/reader relationship works), the Bearcats are not the most fluid offensive team as a whole, and haven't been for some time. Playing a scheme with fewer passes and more isolation plays that runs at a slow tempo hasn't exactly opened up the passing lanes. In fact, Cincinnati ranked 228th in the country in assist percentage last season (0.912). As Jon Rothstein points out, Cincinnati has won each of its last 42 games in which it has scored at least 60 points. Unfortunately, too often, getting to 60 points has been a tooth and claw affair.
But what if the team got an infusion of passing talent and a player that fits the mold of a true point guard a la Nick Van Exel? That would be exciting, right? Well, after that lengthy preamble, let me now introduce Justin Jenifer, who could be the player that brings the Bearcats back to life on offense.
We already waxed poetic about Jenifer and his ability to pass and handle the rock and all that hype is warranted. Most players that get recruited by big time college basketball programs put up gaudy scoring statistics since they are often the best player on their team by a long shot. It is not as common to see a guy post outrageous assist numbers. Jenifer did just that at Milford Mills Academy, as he dished out seven helpers per game as a senior. Those are great numbers, right? Yes, but not if you look at Jenifer's junior season when he tallied 18 points and 13 assists per game. While the drop off in production is a bit concerning, even splitting the difference between those two seasons equates to a stellar statistical performance.
Don't be fooled into thinking the left-handed Jenifer, who stands at 5-foot-10, is not a scorer as well as a passer. He racked up 30 points three times as a senior, including a 40-point barrage, so when others aren't open, he should have no problem getting the ball in the basket himself.
Jenifer wasn't only courted by Cincinnati, as the three-star recruit also received interest from Georgetown, Memphis, Louisville, Villanova and Xavier, among others. Tired of reading about Jenifer? Here. Now you can watch him.
In my medical opinion, if you watch this video and don't physically drop your jaw when Jenifer goes behind the back and then dumps a no-look pass to a teammate at the 18-second mark, then I'm pretty sure you should be declared brain dead.*
*Disclaimer: Phil Neuffer is not technically a "doctor".