It wasn’t a shocking development to me entirely, but, I was caught off guard.
Way back on December 9th when the UMKC Kangaroos paid a visit to Hilton Coliseum, I was fortunate enough to score some really good seats in the arena circle instead of my normal perch in the balcony. I was surrounded by older gentlemen that weren’t really my normal crowd (you know, young, and lacking money more than anything else) – and yes, that’s stereotyping.
On the first possession, Bryce Dejean-Jones made an open two-point jumper. On the second possession, Dustin Hogue threw down a dunk. On the third possession Dejean-Jones followed suit with his own dunk. And on the fourth possession, Dejean-Jones attacked and drew a foul. So, what’s the big deal about that?
Well, as BDJ was attacking to draw that foul I heard not one, but two different spectators holler at him, “C’mon Bryce, PASS THE BALL!” This happened less than four minutes into the game and so far he was 2-2 from the floor and just drew a foul to go to the free throw line. Yet, he gets yelled at to pass the ball.
I suppose that is how it goes when you’re as maligned as he is by your own fan base.
His past is well documented. And, he had a legal run-in the week of the Iowa game that is even better documented around here. But, these fan opinions were alive and well before that happened. So what is it about him that has given people the notion to label him as selfish? I addressed this over a month ago, but I think it is worth repeating.
His scoring struggles have been obvious of late as he hasn’t scored more than eight points in his last five games (he did score 18 in return from his suspension against Southern). He’s averaged just 5.8 points in those five games while shooting 11-26 from the floor. Certainly not great, but also not to the point of being detrimental. But in that same span he’s averaging 2.8 assists per game and five rebounds per game.
In the interest of “fair and balanced,” he’s also averaging 2.4 turnovers per game in his last five outings which is too high, but not entirely unexpected. But if those turnovers are too much for you, consider that has steal to turnover ratio is 0.71; he almost single handedly makes up for them with his defense.
Sure, he isn’t performing to the high bar that he set through his first seven games of the season but as noted above, these feelings from fans aren’t a new deal with his recent struggles.
While those recent struggles meshed with his checkered past and a slip up in Ames set the current fan perception of him, his production on the court has been better than most realize, especially for the season as a whole.
He currently has the 9th best effective field goal percentage in the Big 12 at 59.1 percent behind mostly post players and 3-point snipers. He grabs defensive rebounds at the 12th best rate in the league by hauling in 18.4 percent of rebounds at that end when he is on the court. And, oh by the way, “Mr. Ballhog” himself has the 16th best assist rate in the league also at 18.4 percent.
You know how many guys in the Big 12 are putting together that combo of statistical goodness? One. In fact, if you combine any two of those three metrics he is still in a grouping of just two or three guys like Jameel McKay, Georges Niang, Royce O’Neale, or Frank Mason.
Yet, our own fans spend a lot of time concerning over his “selfishness”.
That isn’t what we do here…that isn’t how we took the quote from DeAndre Kane’s mother and ran with calling Ames “Focus Town”. We’re all in this basketball rehabilitation together that our fearless leader, Fred Hoiberg, has been running since he came back to save us.
Our role isn’t to heckle our own guys because we don’t like his demeanor on the court. A demeanor I might add that is entirely a personal preference all while he has been playing with a very high motor lately, and really, most of the season. We encourage until the end, similar to our support of a guy like Anthony Booker that caused local media to question how we continue to stand behind him so firmly.
He has his skeletons without the pleasure of keeping all of them under lock and key in the closet. He’s made some bad decisions on and off the court. He committed a silly intentional foul against Maryland. He’s forced shots at times. But, lots of guys have made mistakes on the court.
The fact of the matter is that Dejean-Jones has done a number of things very well for the vast majority of the season, even if he isn’t scoring as much as we all know he’s capable. He’s got his personal flaws and flaws on the court but make no mistake about it, without his 7.5 rebounds per game in conference play the Cyclones may be 0-2 instead of 2-0.
And rest assured, there will be times that Iowa State desperately needs him down the stretch.