Bakersfield College assistant men’s basketball coach Joey Velasquez pulled aside sophomore guard Tucker Eenigenburg before BC’s game against College of the Canyons on Jan. 27 to share some words of encouragement.
“Tuck, if we’re gonna win, you need to have 40 (points),” the assistant coach said.
Eenigenburg didn’t think he could do it.
“I’ll try,” Eenigenburg responded. “I’ll see what I can do.”
On the way back to the locker room about two hours later, Eenigenburg heard people saying he might have gotten to 40. When BC head coach Rich Hughes announced Eenigenburg’s 51 points afterwards, the player thought the coach was playing a cruel joke.
“It was crazy,” Eenigenburg said, reflecting on the game, which the Renegades won 87-81. “I still can’t really believe it.”
Eenigenburg is currently the Renegades’ top offensive threat, scoring 19.6 points per game. He’s 18th in the state in points, 11th in field goal percentage (48.5) and second in free throw percentage (92.6). The Stockdale High School alumnus is making a name for himself at BC with standout games and an efficient scoring ability that has the Renegades tied for first place in the conference.
BC’s next game is Saturday at LA Pierce at 5 p.m.
“I personally believe he’s a better shooter inside of the 3, and he’s a great 3-point shooter,” Hughes said. “He can put the ball on the floor and hit shots in a variety of ways — one bounce, two bounce, three bounce, step back, get to the rim. He’s like an old school traditional two guard that you don't really hear people talk about anymore.”
Hughes knew Eenigenburg would be a great player for BC early in Eenigenburg’s freshman season. The Renegades were in the championship game of the Santa Barbara Tournament against Grossmont. Eenigenburg had a chance at the game-winning shot.
More than a year later, Eenigenburg remembers getting a kick-out pass on the left wing. He put it up before the buzzer but missed the 3-pointer and BC lost by two.
“You could just tell it hurt him inside,” Hughes said. “... Even though he missed it and we lost, inside of me I was like, ‘You know what? He’s gonna be good for us because he cares about being his best.’”
Eenigenburg turned into an all-conference player that season and is on a path to do it again. He’s right around his goals of 50 percent from the field, 45 percent from 3 and 90 percent from the line for a season.
Against Canyons, the sophomore was 13-of-21 from the field, 8-of-12 from 3 and made all 17 of his free throws. He made more than one half of BC’s shots and all of its 3s as the Renegades played without its other two stars.
“I ain’t never had a knockdown shooter like Tuck, ever,” BC forward Jaylunn English said. “Never. Consistently? Never.”
The jump shooting really developed when Eenigenburg tore his ACL heading into his senior year of high school. Initially, he was scared to drive into the lane after rushing his recovery just to play his last high school season. Instead, he worked on his outside game, releasing his shot quicker and raising his elbows higher.
The free throw shooting was born out of a disappointing game during Eenigenburg’s freshman year of high school. He was fouled on a 3-pointer with his team down by two points. Eenigenburg missed two of the three shots and his team lost.
“From then on, I was like, ‘Free throws, I’m not gonna miss anymore,’” Eenigenburg said.
On a net in his driveway, he worked his way up to making about 90 out of 100 free throws in a session. One day at BC practice last year, Eenigenburg made all 100 free throws he took, he said.
After Eenigenburg’s recent big game, coaches at four-year colleges called up Hughes to tell him he was right about Eenigenburg’s skill. More coaches reached out to Eenigenburg, too, about playing for them at the Division II, Division III and NAIA levels.
Eenigenburg wants to make his basketball career last as long as he can.
“I just want to get to the best school I can,” Eenigenburg said. “Get my degree ... and after that, I really don't know what the future holds.”