Jared Bynum is a freshman, but he’s already established himself as a key player for the Hawks. Through the first two months of this season, Bynum started all 12 games, averaging 12.3 points, 3.7 assists, 3.3 rebounds, and 1.4 steals per game. And he’s only getting better.
The 5-foot-10 point guard shined at Georgetown Prep and saved his best season for last, averaging 17.5 points and six assists per game his senior year, en route to being named the Interstate Athletic Conference Player of the Year. The Saint Joseph’s coaching staff had their eye on Bynum throughout his high school career, though.
Hawk Hill was an easy choice for Bynum. The staff was welcoming, he could see himself on campus, it was relatively close to home, the program and Phil Martelli had a history of success, and Bynum would be able to play his game. There was something else that made St. Joe’s stand out to Bynum.
“From the first time they started talking to me, they treated me like family,” Bynum said. “That was one of my big things. Me and my family wanted to go to a program where they would treat me like family. Not only me, but also my mom, my sister, and my grandparents.”
Bynum knew the transition to playing college basketball would be tough, so he started preparing during his senior year and took basketball more seriously than he had before, talking with his high school coaches as well as Martelli to understand how he could improve.
When summer practices started, Bynum wanted to show his new teammates and coaches he respected them and to earn their respect as well. All the preparation gave Bynum a lot of confidence in himself and his skills on the court, though he knew playing time and responsibilities are earned, not given.
“Coming in, I kind of knew I was going to play a lot, but I didn’t know I was going to start right away,” Bynum said. “I guess it’s just how it worked out. I practiced hard. I played hard. It wasn’t really that big of a reaction [to starting]. It was like, ‘Okay, cool. I’m starting, so I’ve got to prove that I deserve the starting position.’”
Proving he deserved the starting position was no problem. Fourteen points, two rebounds, and two assists in 34 minutes in your collegiate debut? That’s a solid argument for being a starter.
As the season has progressed, Bynum has gotten more comfortable on the court, not only in directing his own game, but also in involving his teammates.
“I think I’m a pretty good playmaker. Like, if I have the ball in my hands, I can make a lot of plays for myself and a lot of plays for others as well,” Bynum said. “I can play on and off the ball. I think that puts me in a lot of spots and it can change the team around a lot… I think I do a little bit of everything. I get a couple of rebounds here and there, get some steals, stuff like that.”
It hasn’t taken long for Bynum to prove he’s an adept collegiate point guard, but there is a hitch he’ll likely face for the rest of his career: his height. By many “standards,” 5-foot-10 is too short.
The trope isn’t anything new to Bynum. He’s used to being one of the smallest guys on the court. It didn’t impede his game in high school, and it hasn’t impeded his game in college. It’s given him a chip on his shoulder, which has only motivated him more.
“I think it makes me more aggressive,” Bynum said. “Being a smaller guard, you can’t really play conservatively. You’ve got to play bigger than what you are. I think that kind of makes me play harder, makes me feel like I’ve got to prove something, not to myself, but to others. Smaller guards are still some of the best guards.”
Is the phrase “smaller point guard” ringing any bells? It probably is.
Fifteen years ago, the Hawks were on their way to an undefeated regular season, led by 6-foot point guard and future NBA All-Star Jameer Nelson. When Bynum was first considering his options for college, he knew he wanted to go somewhere that had a good track record with guys his size who had similar playing styles. St. Joe’s really was the perfect fit.
Although Bynum is comfortable on the team, he is the only freshman on the roster, which creates a bit of an odd living situation, since freshman basketball players always live together in McShain Hall.
“During breaks, there’s nobody else in the freshman dorm, but my teammates help me out,” Bynum said. “I hang out with them all the time. They know how it is being a freshman on the team and the coaches know how it is being the only freshman on the team, so they’re always on top of making sure I fit in, I’m not feeling alone, stuff like that.”
Unfortunately for Bynum, one of the ways the team celebrated the end of final exams was with a bowling trip that didn’t go well for him. Assistant coach Geoff Arnold sought out Bynum before practice the next day to give him a hard time.
Bynum knew his bowling difficulties would come up during practice that day and laughed it off, though he did note he hadn’t bowled in about five years. The flak he got afterwards is what you’d expect from your family. After all, that’s what Bynum wanted from his college team and what the Hawks are: a family.
When he’s on the court, all Bynum cares about is getting a win, and that will be his focus during his four years on Hawk Hill. Keep your eye on Jared Bynum; he’s already made a big splash, and he’s just getting started.