EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — The start of the college basketball season in under a month away, and while the focus is deservedly on UTEP’s 5-1 football team, it’s never too early to start talking Miners basketball.
The Joe Golding era at UTEP will begin on Nov. 9 against Western New Mexico at the Don Haskins Center. The Miners are already full-go in preseason practices, and the focus leading into the season has been the depth at the guard position. Souley Boum, Christian Agnew, Keonete Kennedy Jamal Bieniemy, Emmanuel White and Cam Clardy all return from last year’s roster, to go along with the additions of Jorell Saterfield and Kezza Giffa.
Golding is expecting his guards to do more in a system that is built around ball movement, and Bieniemy will be the main facilitator after averaging 8.6 points, 4.0 assists and 3.5 rebounds per game last season.
“I didn’t think he [Bieniemy] had a great year last year and I think he would agree with that,” said Golding. “I think he has come out with a chip on his shoulder since day one when I got here. He’s one of the hardest workers we have, and he’s always in the gym.”
Bieniemy transferred to UTEP from Oklahoma ahead of the 2020-21 season, and decided remain put when Golding took over the program for former head coach Rodney Terry. Now he’s being asked to learn a new system that will call for him to raise his level of production.
“I’m being more aggressive, looking to shoot and score the basketball more,” said Bieniemy. “That’s something Coach Golding has been working on me with, and that’s something I’ve been practicing this whole summer until now. I’m trying to get better at it everyday.”
Considering his best basketball is still ahead of him, Golding believes Bieniemy can be one of the best guards in Conference USA in 2021-22.
“There’s going to be a lot on his shoulders,” said Golding. “I think he’s an all-conference player. I think he’s a really good talent and I think he’s learning to trust his teammates. We are asking him to be a little more aggressive offensively, but at the same time, keep the ball moving and make the right reads for us.”
As much as the Miners are asking him to do on the floor, Bieniemy’s role is also increasing off it as well. He will be called upon to be one of UTEP’s leaders, which is a trait that runs in the Bieniemy family. His uncle, Eric Bieniemy, played nine seasons in the NFL and is the offensive coordinator for the Kansas City Chiefs.
“I’ve been here before, so I know what’s going on,” said Bieniemy. “I can lead the guys and I have a great relationship with Coach Golding. I just need to be an extension of him on the court with my teammates and keep getting them better everyday.”
UTEP will play six non-conference games in the month of November, including their first meeting against rival New Mexico State since 2019 on Nov. 13.