AMES — When Bryce Dejean-Jones suited up for his first game in an Iowa State uniform, fans immediately saw what a dynamic athlete he is.
The UNLV transfer soared and spotted up for 20 points and grabbed 11 rebounds in that season-opening Oakland win — his first career double-double — and followed up that splendid debut with five 17-plus point efforts in the next seven games.
Then, the scoring slipped, crunch-time minutes waned and 3-pointers started sailing long, or clanking short. Time to panic? Not exactly. Dejean-Jones continues to do the little big things to help the No. 9 Cyclones win. And he’s enjoying every minute of it — even if the stat sheet doesn’t always properly reflect his impact.
“That’s a big thing, just coming out here and doing the little things,” Dejean-Jones said. “There’s things on the court people may not notice, but I’m just looking to do whatever it takes to help the team win."
A favorable tip here, a momentum-boosting and-one dunk there. A couple key steals, a pass that leads to an open look.
Dejean-Jones is on a roll in terms of intangibles — and enters Saturday’s 3 p.m. matchup between Big 12-leading ISU (14-3, 4-1) and reeling Texas Tech (10-9, 0-6) poised for an offensive breakthrough.
“When we’re in film sessions, Bryce is making a ton of winning plays, especially on the glass; extra possessions and playing defense,” Cyclone forward Georges Niang said. “So he may not be scoring the ball as much, but he’s helping us in a ton of other areas which don’t show up on stats sheets.”
Some of them do. Dejean-Jones has secured a team-best three offensive rebounds in each of the past two wins over Kansas and Kansas State.
One, with ISU trailing the Wildcats 65-61, led to a one-handed assist to Abdel Nader, who swished a short baseline jumper after missing a 3-pointer. Dejean-Jones then grabbed a defensive rebound on the next K-State possession and drove the floor to find Jameel McKay on the block. McKay was stripped, but Dustin Hogue — who also had three offensive boards — cleaned up with a layup and tied the score.
Little things. Huge impact.
“I thought he made great plays, especially off the dribble in our last game,” ISU coach Fred Hoiberg said. “He got Georges a wide-open 3. He made a nice tip pass on an offensive rebound to Abdel where he scored. He made another really nice pass coming down on the break. Just simple basketball plays. That’s been the thing that’s impressed me most about Bryce.”
And who needs a barrage of “home runs” when everyone’s batting nearly .500?
The top six players in the Cyclones rotation are shooting between 46 and 61 percent from the field.
Dejean-Jones, despite reaching double figures in scoring just twice in the past eight games, is hitting shots at a 51 percent clip. That’s almost 10 percent better than he was in two seasons at UNLV.
As for the as-of-late poor 3-point shooting, don’t expect that to be a lasting trend, either. Not if results from recent practices spill over into game play, anyway.
“I feel like Bryce is playing at a high level,” standout point guard Monté Morris said. “He’s just not making the shots he was making early in the year. Everybody goes through their little slump, but he’s still in here going hard (at practice) and making the shots he’s missing in games. So I feel like it’s a matter of time before he has a big one.”
Maybe that comes Saturday at Lubbock against a Red Raiders team that’s given a 15 percent chance to record its first conference win. Maybe not, too — but providing those needed little things will remain a constant.
“I’m feeling real comfortable,” Dejean-Jones said. “We have a lot of weapons on this team so every night’s going to be somebody different. I’m just looking to go out there and do whatever it takes to help the team win.”