- 4.8 points per game
- 2.5 assists
- 1.0 rebounds
When Cane Broome decided to transfer to Cincinnati, it seemed like that would lead to many empty games for Justin Jenifer. Although Jenifer was a heralded prospect in the 2015 class, he had yet to really “break out” and Broome was a former conference player of the year with 20-point-per-game scoring talent. Yet, even after Broome started the first game of the season at point guard, eventually, Jenifer took the job back and was the starter for the majority of the 2017-18 season. In fact, he actually played more minutes than Broome as the two formed a successful partnership rather than a competition for the same post.
With Jenifer, the Bearcats got another year of solid work, just not work that was always easy to spot. Its simple when a guy scores 20 points. You know he worked within the offense and made a major impact. Even when a guy grabs a ton of rebounds or blocks a lot of shots, you can look back and count up the statistical tgon of production. Its not always easy to do that for a guy like Jenifer, who did have some slick dimes throughout the campaign, but was more important for his ball-handling and solid efforts around the edges while Gary Clark, Jacob Evans and the rest of the talented starting lineup shined brightly.
Even if Jenifer didn’t have the most stunning stat line, he still boosted his production across some key areas, setting career-highs in points (4.8 per game) and assists (2.5). He also managed to be a pretty decent three-point shooter, although an increased workload led to a drop in his success rate, as he hit 35.7 percent from three this past season compared to 37.8 the year before. But he countered that by shooting well from the free throw line (77.2 percent) after making only half of his attempts in 2016-17.
I mentioned Jenifer’s ball handling prowess earlier and it is there that he had his most important impact. He ranked second on the team in assists percentage (22.1). Interestingly enough, he was behind Broome in that category. However, while Broome was bit by the turnover bug a bit too often, Jenifer was extremely careful with the ball and rarely made mistakes, with a 12.8 turnover percentage. Because he was so effective at keeping the ball and moving the offense, he ended up ranking second on the team in offensive rating (122.9) behind Clark.
But Jenifer didn’t just hold get the ball, dribble once or twice and pass. He flashed some of the sickest handles on the team this and showed a real knack for slicing his way through the lane and finishing at the tin.
On defense, Jenifer was passable, but not overly disruptive. He had a defensive rating of 96.3, which ranked last on the team among players with more than 15 games played. But he kept players in front of him and was good enough to earn 1.4 defensive win shares. Not only that, he was named one of the team’s defensive players of the year. So even if some metrics didn’t love him, clearly his coaching staff did.
The Best of the Best
Nov. 10, 2017 vs. Savannah State
Even though he didn’t start in the season opener, Jenifer still made a major impact, scoring 15 points and handing out five assists. He was more offensively aggressive that usual, taking 12 field goal attempts and showing off a willingness to get to the rim that continued to develop throughout the season.
Nov. 16, 2017 vs. Coppin State
In another beautiful effort off the bench, Jenifer tallied a career-high 16 points while shooting very efficiently. He made 4-of-5 field goal attempts (all from beyond the arc) and also sank all four of his free throws.
Dec. 21, 2017 vs. Cleveland State
Even though he didn’t have his shot working in this one (three points on 1-of-4 hooting), he got the rest of his teammates involved, dishing out seven dimes.
Dec. 31, 2017 vs. Memphis
Everyone played well in the conference opener and that included Jenifer, who put together seven points, four assists and two steals in 23 minutes.
Feb. 6, 2018 vs. UCF
This was an off night shooting wise for Jenifer, but it didn’t shake his confidence, as he made three triples (on nine attempts) and finished with 11 points.
Feb. 11, 2018 at SMU
Five days after taking 10 total field goal attempts against UCF, Jenifer was more selective with his shots (2-for-3), but he had five assists and four rebounds to go with his six points.
For Next Year
It might surprise you, but Jenifer will be a senior next season. It doesn’t seem possible, especially since it still feels like we’re waiting for the “break out.” Instead of continuing to wait for that, it would be better to just appreciate what Jenifer is doing and that’s playing mistake-free (ish) basketball, hitting some big shots and distributing as well as just about anyone else out there. He will need to step up a bit more next season for sure, but it always seemed like once the opportunity presented itself, Jenifer would have the skills to elevate his game. He’ll have a chance to prove that very soon.