Cal State Bakersfield freshman Jarkel Joiner is quick to pick out his worst games of the season. In the three games of the Great Alaska Shootout, Joiner scored just four total points and made one shot in the second week of games.
He’s not so sure when it comes to his best game. Maybe it was his 19-point, 10-rebound game against Missouri-Kansas City on Jan. 18, he said.
“I don’t really know,” Joiner said. “I don’t think I had a best game yet. Still waiting on my best game.”
In his first season of college basketball, Joiner is leading CSUB in scoring with 11.2 points per game and is one of two players to start every game for the Roadrunners. He could become the first freshman to lead CSUB in scoring since at least 1991 and possibly in the history of the program. But Joiner has had to work his way through the ups and downs anticipated in a player's first season.
His and CSUB's (8-12, 1-4 Western Athletic) next test will be at Seattle (14-8, 3-2) on Friday at 7 p.m.
“The way he’s responded has been impressive,” assistant coach Jeff Conarroe said. “He hasn’t let that bother him. He hasn’t doubted himself. ... For his age and his youth, it hasn't fazed him. And he still gets in there and works just as hard as anybody else in our program.”
The 18-year-old guard from Oxford, Mississippi was fourth in the nation last year in high school scoring. His ability to get buckets was obvious.
And his athleticism was on display at CSUB first scrimmage of the season when Joiner won the slam dunk contest. He even converted two dunks on alley-oop passes from point guard Brent Wrapp in the game.
“Last year when we signed him I told people he’s one of those guys that people are going to start coming to our games because of him,” head coach Rod Barnes said afterward. “I think tonight was just a little taste of it.”
Parts of the actual season have been a taste of it, too. Joiner scored 23 points in the season opener, 20 at UCLA and 23 against Delaware. At home against Life Pacific, Joiner nailed five 3-pointers from the same spot in a span of three and a half minutes.
Other parts have not gone as well. Joiner recently broke out of a shooting slump that saw him shooting just 20 percent across four games. The worst outing was an 0-for-7 performance in a blowout loss at Utah Valley where Joiner missed open shots, Barnes said.
Joiner said he could have done a better job of not beating himself up too much and staying in games mentally.
“I think for the first time, Jarkel is facing scouting reports that have in detail how to take things away from him and I think that adjustment has been somewhat difficult and probably made him second guess at times,” Conarroe said.
It’s also been a challenging process of Joiner changing his score-first mindset into defense first.
But Barnes has been there to help Joiner through the struggles. In a talk after the games in Alaska, Barnes reminded Joiner that he trusts him on the court and everyone goes through slumps.
The head coach sends his player Bible verses and has taught Joiner that “you really gotta have your mind, your body and spirit locked into what you want to do,” Joiner said. It was good advice in terms of preparing for games, Joiner added.
Already, Joiner considers Barnes to be another father to him.
Conarroe and Joiner work together for hours shooting in the Icardo Center outside of practice.
Both coaches knew Joiner’s first season would be an adjustment, but they know he has the talent and won’t hesitate to put the ball in his hands in any game or situation.
“Any freshman that can come into a Division I program with the success we’ve had and start is impressive,” Conarroe said. “We have a lot of faith and trust in him and that’s why he’s getting the opportunities that he’s gotten.”