EL PASO, TEXAS (KTSM) – -Ask UTEP head coach Rodney Terry what the difference is for the Miners this winter, and he’s pretty matter-of-fact.
Junior transfer point guard Jamal Bieniemy.
Simply put, he’s the man behind the steering wheel for UTEP. The transfer from Oklahoma puts the Miners in gear, and he’s beginning to really pick up speed, That could mean UTEP is about to take things into overdrive.
“He’s one of those guys that can play in transition and find guys. There were times last year where we had open shooters and we couldn’t find them,” Terry said.
Since day one with the Miners, Bieniemy has had the keys to UTEP’s attack, dictating when to go and when to relax. His decision making has been his biggest strength.
“I’m getting really comfortable with the system and I’m learning everything like the back of my hand,” Bieniemy said I just have to keep watching film, and keep getting better.”
The New Orleans native, who graduated from high school in Katy, Texas, ranks in the top 10 in the NCAA in assist-to-turnover ratio, clocking in 4.33 assists for every turnover. In all, he’s got 39 helpers on the season, and has coughed it up just nine times in seven games. On the season, he’s averaging over 10 points, 5.6 assists, and 3 rebounds per game.
He’s a true point guard; JB gets the Miners out in transition and as a result, UTEP is scoring 8 more points per game than a season ago, and they have a win over Arizona State in the record books.
“Jamal makes the game a lot easier for Souley (Boum) and a lot of the guys around him,” Terry said. “Just having good vision and good presence makes a big difference.”
Bieniemy started for two years at Oklahoma, even playing in the NCAA Tournament as a freshman. His family has championship pedigree; His uncle, Eric Bieniemy, is the offensive coordinator of the reigning Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs, and could soon be an NFL head coach.
He was also a star running back at Colorado in the early 90s, finishing third in the Heisman Trophy voting in 1990 as the Buffaloes won the National Championship. The Miners think Jamal could help them reach new heights and win titles of their own.
“He knows he could probably lead the nation in assists because we have scorers that can make plays,” said his backcourt mate, Souley Boum “I’m excited that he’s on our team and we’ve got him.”
Boum and Terry said that the Miners have changed very little schematically in 2020-21; a lot of the Miners’ offensive surge has been because of what Bieniemy brings to the table.
Bieniemy could be coming into his own as a scorer for the Miners; he averaged 18 points and 7 assists in two games last weekend, drilling 4 threes in UTEP’s 14-point Saturday win over Southern Miss.
Now, it’s all about consistency, for him, and for the Miners.
“We just try to keep that energy high and keep each other going,” Bieniemy said. “Keep making plays for each other, understanding what we have to do night in and night out to get wins.”
UTEP (5-3, 1-1 C-USA) will host Rice (8-2, 2-0) for a pair of games at the Don Haskins Center on Friday and Saturday. Tipoff for both games is set for 7 p.m. For the first time all season, fans will be permitted inside the arena.