Big 12 tournament notepad: Jamal Bieniemy prepares for tourney debut as starter

Kyle Phillips / The Transcript

OU's Jamal Bieniemy passes the ball during the Sooners' game against Kansas, Tuesday, March 5, 2019, at Lloyd Noble Center.

KANSAS CITY — Freshman starter Jamal Bieniemy will get his first taste of the Big 12 tournament, which won’t be held far from his uncle's place of work.

Eric Bieniemy, a former All-American running back at Colorado, is the offensive coordinator for the Kansas City Chiefs.

Jamal Bieniemy hasn’t had the chance to catch up with his uncle yet. He’s more focused on staying as efficient as his uncle’s NFL offense once was, as the Sooners push for the NCAA Tournament.

“[The intensity is] just going to go up a lot and you’ve got to play harder,” Jamal Bieniemy said, “and be smart and just stay the same and continue to take care of the team and the ball.”

Bieniemy has taken care of the ball better than any Sooner this season. He has 106 assists to 39 turnovers.

He’ll get a third crack at West Virginia in OU’s tournament opener Wednesday. He led the team in assists in both games against the Mountaineers this season.

Bieniemy also scored a career-high 22 points vs. West Virginia March 2 in a 92-80 win.

“He’s kind of been thrown into the starting lineup early in the conference and has done a fantastic job,” OU coach Lon Kruger said of his point guard. “I’m sure his whole family is fired up about it, his uncle especially.”

• Most improved: The Big 12's Most Improved Player award recipient will suit up for the Sooners Wednesday.

Junior Kristian Doolittle was surprised by the honor he won Sunday, but he’s emerged as a reliable scorer after going from averaging 2.9 points and 4.3 rebounds per game last season to 11.0 points and 6.9 rebounds this season.

“I was surprised, but I was grateful that I was chosen for the award,” Doolittle said. “But I'm not satisfied. I'm just proud that what I've done so far has been noticed and it's always nice to receive an award. I'm just looking forward to next year as well.”

• Homecoming: OU's visit to Kansas City will be a homecoming for walk-on forward Patrick Geha.

The 6-foot-5 senior played high school basketball 20 minutes south of Sprint Center at Rockhurst High School. He then went to OU to pursue two undergraduate degrees.

It wasn’t until his junior year, however, he walked on to the program after spending most of his life in Kansas Jayhawk country.

“I grew up always watching KU, living in that household and all my friends in school were KU fans,” Geha said. “I always wanted to come to Oklahoma and try to prove something.”

The National Merit Scholar has certainly proven himself as a valuable teammate, in addition to juggling between playing Division I basketball and majoring in biology and pre-medicine.

“It’s all about a schedule,” Geha said. “It keeps me motivated. It keeps me going. All my teammates keep me going, just to have that extra push of just a little bit of stress gets you there.”

He also will be joined in Kansas City by his former high school teammate, Chris Teahan, who is a walk-on for the Jayhawks.

Up next: If OU beats West Virginia Wednesday, it'll face the tournament's No. 2 seed, Texas Tech, at 6 p.m. Thursday on ESPN2. The NCAA Tournament Selection Show will air Sunday at 5 p.m.

Transcript Sports Writer