UTEP Men’s Basketball 2020-21 Player-By-Player Breakdown
The 2020-21 UTEP men's basketball team has a new look this year and there are a ton of unknowns across their roster.
The Miners will host UTPB on Wednesday, Nov. 25 at the Haskins Center. There won't be fans allowed to the game, but fans can listen to the coverage on 600 ESPN El Paso, watch the game on C-USA TV and also follow along with 600 ESPN El Paso's live coverage on Twitter. Make sure to tune in after each broadcast for MinerTalk, presented by Longhorn Distributing.
Let's take a deep dive player-by-player and piece together what we know.
Plus, some early season predictions for each player:
Projected Starting 5
Bryson Williams (6-foot-8 Forward, Redshirt Senior)
- 2020 All-Conference USA First Team
- Conference USA Player of the Week (Feb. 3, 2020; Jan. 20, 2020; Dec. 9, 2019)
- 2018 All-Mountain West Third Team
2019 stats: 17.8 points, 7.2 rebounds, 0.9 assists in 31.8 minutes per game
Best game: Posted career-high (34 points) on 13-of-24 shooting from the field, including 6-for-6 from the free-throw line, 10 rebounds and two steals vs. UTSA (80-77 OT). Williams helped UTEP in their come-from-behind overtime victory against the Roadrunners in 2019.
- Ranked 3rd in points (17.8 ppg) and 5th for rebounding (7.2) in C-USA
- Only player in C-USA to rank top-5 in scoring and rebounding
- Preseason All C-USA Team (2020-21)
2020-21 Prediction: The sky's the limit for the star of this program. Bryson Williams is set up to have another spectacular season for the team and could statistically go down among the best to wear a UTEP uniform. He's the best player UTEP has seen since Vince Hunter sported a Miner uniform. I'm not saying he's going to be a sure-fire NBA draft pick but he has a chance to gain some national respect this season, which could attract more pro scouts.
Jamal Bienemy (6-foot-5 Point Guard, Junior)
2019 stats (Oklahoma): 5.2 points, 4.0 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.1 steals in 31.9 minutes.
Best game: Scored a season-high 15 points against Minnesota.
- Started in 47 games at Oklahoma in two seasons (started 30 in 2019-20)
- Hit 79.2% from the free throw line
- Shot 34.5% from the floor (60-for-174)
2020-21 Prediction: Jamal Bienemy becomes the first true point guard that the Rodney Terry era has been longing for. As a 6-foot-5 ball-handler, Bienemy could become a nice one-two punch alongside Williams to create offense, while also becoming a reliable defender.
Souley Boum (6-foot-3 Shooting Guard, Redshirt Junior)
2019 stats: 12.9 points, 3.6 rebounds, 2.0 assists
Best game: Scored a career-best 27 points at Rice (1/23)
- Led C-USA with an 87.8% free throw percentage (21st in NCAA)
- Ranked 2nd on UTEP in scoring (12.9) during 2019-20
- Shot 28.6% from 3-point range
2020-21 Prediction: I'm sure there's another part of Souley Boum we're going to see unlocked this year—for all the good reasons. Of course, he's going to be perfect at the charity stripe. But the challenge (and I know it's been said over and over) is his shooting. If Boum can hit the 3-pointer at a consistent clip, his upside is all-conference potential.
Tydus Verhoeven (6-foot-9 Forward, Redshirt Junior)
2019 stats: 1.3 points, 2.3 rebounds, 0.5 assists, 0.5 blocks
Best game: Four blocked shots versus Marshall in C-USA Tournament
- Ranked 2nd on the team in blocked shots (15) in 2019-20
- Started five of the last six games at forward
- Broke Duquense freshman blocked shot record (71).
2020-21 Prediction: Verhoeven proved to the coaching staff that he's more than capable of holding down the starting forward spot alongside Williams. He was challenged to prove he can be more than just a strong rim protector. The coaching staff believes that Verhoeven has shaped his offensive game to make him more of a scoring option for the team. I believe it. Verhoeven was promising in the paint through the last stretch of last year and he has a chance to prove he can produce offensively this year.
Keonte Kennedy (6-foot-5 Guard, Redshirt Sophomore)
2019 stats: sat out per NCAA transfer rules
Best game (Xavier): Scored 8 points versus Illinois at Maui Invitational
- Appeared in 22 games for Xavier during 2018-19 season (12.2 minutes per game)
- Earned a 4-star rating from ESPN.com
- Ranked as the No. 25 shooting guard in the nation at Austin Westlake
2020-21 Prediction: We haven't seen Kennedy don a Miner uniform in an official game but the Austin, Texas native brings a lot of potential to the table. With a solid jumper and an ability to defend perimeter shooters, Kennedy could be the x-factor for the team this year.
Projected Bench Rotation
Kristian Sjolund (6-foot-8 Forward, Redshirt Sophomore)
2019 stats (Georgia Tech): Sat out with an injury
Best game: Scored 11 points and had six rebounds at No. 22 Virginia Tech
- Played in 21 games, making four starts in 2018-19
- Teammates with current Miners Jamal Bieniemy and Emmanuel White
- Had 30 offers coming out of high school (3-star prospect)
2020-21 Prediction: Coming off rehabbing a foot injury at Georgia Tech, Sjolund is going to be a nice addition to this group. He's a lengthy forward that can hit the 3-pointer. He's going to be competing all year long with Verhoeven for that starting forward spot. I think he has a chance to start some games this year as well.
Efe Odigie (6-foot-9 Forward, Sophomore)
2019 stats: 6.0 points, 3.8 rebounds, 50.4 FG%
Best game: Scored 12 points and led the team with seven rebounds vs. New Mexico
- All C-USA Freshman (2018-19)
- 2x Conference USA Freshman of the Week (Dec. 24, 2018 & Nov. 26, 2018)
- 12 career double-doubles
2020-21 Prediction: Everyone wants to see the All C-USA Odigie of 2018-19 return, but with a crowded frontcourt, minutes might be hard to get. Though, the Houston native has proved he can be one of the most efficient players whenever he steps on the court. The advanced stats love Odigie. He was second on the team to Williams in offensive rating (89.2) and I think he has a chance to be just as efficient this year.
Adam Hess (6-foot-5 Guard, Redshirt Sophomore)
2019 stats: 7.5 points, 81.8% FT,
Best game: Scored 18 points on 6-of-12 shooting from 3-point range at Chandler-Gilbert CC.
- Led SLCC in 3-point shooting percentage (41.6%)
- Scored 181 points off the bench
- Played in 24 games and also finished with 28 assists and 15 steals
2020-21 Prediction: Hess is the primary 3-point specialist. Say no more, say no less. Hess was brought here to knock down 3's and help UTEP improve their poor 3-point shooting from last year (29.7%).
Emmanuel White (6-foot-5 Guard, Junior)
2019 stats (Coastal Bend College): 13.3 points, 4.4 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.1 steals
Best game: Scored 27 points on 8-of-15 shooting, totaled seven rebounds and two steals versus Blinn College.
- Started in 31 of 32 games at Coastal Bend College (2019-20)
- Ranked third on the team in points per game (13.3)
- Led Coastal Bend College in free throw percentage (86.5%)
2020-21 Prediction: Another player with a ton of unknowns. What we do know is that White was high school teammates (Katy Tompkins HS) with current Miners Jamal Bieniemy and Kristian Sjolund. Maybe this year is about competing for playing time for White. Or, maybe he surprises us right out of the gate and plays a reliable bench role among the guards.
Eric Vila (6-foot-11 Forward, Redshirt Senior)
2019 stats: 3.0 points, 5.0 rebounds, 1.9 assists
Best game: 11 rebounds and one assist versus Rice
- Scored 79 points (3.0 ppg) with 48 assists, five blocks and 14 steals.
- Shot 28.1% FG and 21.8% from 3-point range
- Started 14 games for the Miners
2020-21 Prediction: No one wants to hear it but the coaching staff praised Vila's offseason and how the forward has honed in on improving his weaknesses from last year. If he's truly refined himself over the offseason and if he can mentally get out of his shooting woes, Vila could be a serviceable bench player in the frontcourt instead of a liability, as he was at times last year.
Vuk Vulikic (6-foot-4 Guard, Freshman)
2019 stats (Serbia): N/A
Best game: scored 39 points and buzzer-beating shot against Partizan
- 21-year-old freshman with professional playing experience in Serbia
- Played in seven games at the 2019 Fiba U20 European Championships
- Played point guard for KK Dynamite in 2019-20
2020-21 Prediction: A 21-year-old freshman in Vulikic brings international basketball experience to the table. This year, he could earn the primary backup spot at point guard behind Bienemy.
Christian Agnew (6-foot-2 Shooting Guard, Junior)
2019 stats (North Alabama): 12.8 points
Best game: Scored 24 points on 10-of-16 shooting versus Stetson
- Started 45 games in two seasons at North Alabama
- Led the team in scoring (12.8) in 2019-20
- Shot 42.8% FG and 35.3% from 3-point range
2020-21 Prediction: There is still uncertainty surrounding Agnew's eligibility this year. It seems like North Alabama is being difficult on blessing off for Agnew to play immediately. If that's the case, he will sit out this year and be back next season. If he can get eligibility this year, Agnew could be the top defender in UTEP's backcourt.
Cam Clardy (6-foot-1 Guard, Freshman)
2019 stats (Cypress Bridgeland HS): 13.7 points, 6.0 rebounds, 4.0 assists
Best game: Scored 33 points, seven assists, five rebounds and 2 steals vs. Cy Ranch
- Named 1st Team All-District & 2020 All Greater Houston Teams All-Star list
- Scored 20+ in four games
2020-21 Prediction: Not sure what we'll see out of the freshman this year. Traditionally, Terry likes to groom his newcomers before throwing them on the court. Let Clardy take a back seat this year and learn the system as a freshman.
Ze'Rik Onyema (6-foot-8 Forward, Freshman)
2019 stats (San Antonio John Jay High School): 181 points, 12.2 rebounds, 2.2 blocks
Best game: Totaled 29 points, 15 rebounds and three assists in final playoff game
- Named All District 28-6A and earned All-State academic honors
- Racked up 20 double-doubles during senior season
2020-21 Prediction: Similar to Clardy, there's a good chance Onyema plays a limited role on the court. However, the San Antonio native has impressed others in practice. It'll be fun to watch him grow as a player in this system.
Gilles Dekoninck (6-foot-6 Forward, Redshirt Junior)
2019 stats: N/A
Best game: Redshirted in 2019
- C-USA Commissioner's Academic Honor Roll (2019, 2020)
- NABC Outstanding Academic Achievement (2020)
- Redshirted last year
2020-21 Prediction: Dekoninck is one that really impresses the coaching staff with his commitment and attitude. In a loaded frontcourt, it will be another uphill battle for him to get playing time.