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Justin Jenifer Season in Review

The jury is still out, but it’s leaning in his favor.

NCAA Basketball: Memphis at Cincinnati Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

The Numbers

  • 2.8 points per game (8.8 per 40 minutes)
  • 1.9 assists per game (6.1 per 40 minutes)
  • 0.5 steals per game (1.4 per 40 minutes)
  • .411/.378/.500 shooting splits

Jenifer followed a middling freshman campaign with a better — but still unexceptional— sophomore season. His numbers improved across-the-board, but just barely, and he wasn’t really given a chance do much more than spell Troy Caupain for about 12 minutes per game.

Mick Cronin gave him plenty of time to shine in the non-conference schedule where Jenifer put up most of his best games of the season. He showed great chemistry with Tre Scott and Nysier Brooks, finding them for alley-oops and easy baskets regularly. However, his minutes disappeared almost entirely down the stretch. Part of that was because Cronin had committed to living and dying with senior Caupain. Caupain played 38 minutes in three of his final four games, leaving few minutes for Jenifer who is only capable of defending one position and thus can really only sub for Caupain.

Jenifer only hit 50 percent of his free throws, but he only went to the line 14 times, so that can be chalked up to a small sample size. He hit 70 percent last season, and I suspect that’s more representative of his skill. He shot the ball well overall, but was most impressive with his ability to distribute highlight-reel passes to his frontcourt teammates.

The Best of the Best

December 13 vs. Texas Southern

Jenifer scored eight points to go with nine assists in the Bearcats’ win over Texas Southern. He didn’t commit a single turnover in 22 minutes of action, and showed he can masterfully lead the Bearcats for long stretches. Jenifer lead the second unit to 51 points in a 96-58 victory over a team that ultimately finished 23-12 and made the NCAA Tournament.

For Next Year

I really wouldn’t want Mick Cronin’s job next season. With the additions of Cane Broome and Keith Williams, the Bearcats have too many quality guards on their roster, and it’s going to be difficult to find minutes for Jenifer. It appears to be an especially unfair situation for Jenifer who has likely considered himself the heir to Troy Caupain’s position. He should see an increase in minutes, but it’s very unlikely Jenifer will be the undisputed starting point guard. The Bearcats just can’t play both him and Broome at the same time, and I suspect Broome’s jaw-dropping scoring ability will give him the edge over Jenifer.

That said, Jenifer’s advantages in that competition are ones Cronin has historically valued most. He takes care of the basketball, and consistently makes good decisions with the ball in his hands. He’s unselfish, and rarely looks for his shot, which might be a better fit for a team that already has scorers like Jarron Cumberland, Jacob Evans, Kyle Washington and Gary Clark.

It will be the most interesting position battle to watch, and hopefully has a positive effect by forcing the two (Broome and Jenifer) to play their absolute best, instead of a negative impact by creating internal friction.