Justin Jenifer picked the right time to have one of the best games of his young career. It was March 17, 2013, at Comcast Center, and Jenifer’s Milford Mill squad had a date with Potomac, a D.C.-area power featuring four-star prospect and soon-to-be Maryland shooting guard commitment Dion Wiley.
Jenifer, a 5-foot-10, 160-pound point guard, was up for the challenge. The wiry sophomore scored 17 points and added seven rebounds and seven assists in the Millers’ 84-55 rout of the Wolverines. His reward for the win was the Class 3A state championship and a scholarship offer from the man who turned out to be his future college coach.
“Coach [Mick] Cronin saw Justin play [against Potomac] and … he actually offered him after the game,” Milford Mill coach Mike Silverman said of the Cincinnati coach. “That really put Justin on the map. [Cincinnati has] been in contact with him and his parents since then. Justin, Coach Cronin and the staff really bonded.”
On Monday night, Jenifer solidified that bond by committing to the Bearcats. He was also recruited by Xavier, Texas Tech, Providence, Stanford, Harvard, Cornell, Princeton and Louisville.
“I’m stress-free now,” said Jenifer, a Baltimore Sun first-team All-Metro selection as a junior. “I was stressed out this whole time. I was worried about it, but now it’s a big [weight] off my back.”
Jenifer, the No. 100 player in the class of 2015 according to 247Sports.com, wasn’t immediately smitten with the Bearcats. But when the euphoria from Milford Mill’s state title began to wear off, Jenifer began to do more research on the program. Everything he soon discovered was positive.
“I knew Lance Stephenson and Kenyon Martin went there. [But] I didn’t really know about the school,” Jenifer said. “Once I started seeing them play, [I thought], ‘This might be the school for me. This may fit.’”
Jenifer visited Cincinnati last weekend and was impressed with everything he saw. Spending time with the reigning American Athletic Conference regular-season champions was “wonderful.”
“I was amazed,” Jenifer said. “Talking to the assistant dean of students, he just blew my mind, telling me stuff about the campus, the academics and the education. I feel as though the support system is there. Either way if I’m in Baltimore or Cincinnati, I’m going to be home. I wanted to be a Cincinnati Bearcat.”
Jenifer’s coach, meanwhile, thinks the fit makes sense for both parties. In Jenifer, Cincinnati will get a player that is equipped to “contribute right away.”
“His IQ is top-notch as far as point guards are concerned, and his ability to get other players and the supporting cast around him involved,” Silverman said. “He brings those high-quality intangibles that each of his teammates have seen him prove on the floor. He has the insight to be a Division I high-major player because of, among many other things, his IQ and his ballhandling ability.”
Jenifer, who plans to major in forensic science, has simple goals for what he hopes to accomplish in college.
“[I want to be] somebody that’s going to come in and bring W's and do [my] best to try to win the national title.”