But even the way he talks about playing defense on the court, “I get my hands on a lot of passes,” makes one wonder how he’d look in a helmet and shoulder pads.
Defense is Bieniemy’s best attribute, and length is his most disruptive tool. The OU backup point guard leads the Sooners with 19 steals despite being seventh on the team in minutes.
He swipes a steal at a Big 12-best 3.76 percent of the defensive possessions he’s on the floor, according to KenPom.
“He has a knack for the ball, a unique talent on defense,” former Sooner and current Dallas Mavericks scout Eduardo Najera said. “His offense is very raw, but he’s got something that is intriguing.”
His scoring — 3.5 points per game on 31 percent shooting — is underdeveloped compared to his defensive shrewdness, but Bieniemy has already shown a propensity for clutch shooting. He hit late-game 3-pointers against Kansas, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech and is shooting 38 percent from deep on limited attempts (8 for 21).
Bieniemy’s potential has excited those who know the game best.
“Jamal’s like the poster boy for a young Big 12 player who you’re looking at and saying, ‘This kid’s got a chance to be a star some day,’” ESPN analyst Fran Fraschilla told The Oklahoman.
The Big 12 has produced the occasional Kevin Durant and Trae Young, Fraschilla said, but Bieniemy reminds him of players like Buddy Hield, Frank Mason, Georges Niang and Keenan Evans — all of whom had a lasting impact on the conference.