Malik Reneau has emerged as one of the most improved, most valuable and best players in the Big Ten this year. His transformation from a freshman to his second season with Indiana basketball is one of the more significant jumps across the entire country.
This offseason, Indiana basketball head coach made it evident that Reneau had ‘transformed’ his body. From eating right, to working out at a higher intensity, to extra time in the gym. Reneau was doing all of the right things. It’s now paying off in a big way for both he and Indiana.
“This summer, you know, he put a lot of work in. Never really left campus. Got his weight down. The baby fat that he had last year has trimmed down,” Woodson said last week. “So you just got to tip your hat to him. He put the work in this summer and it’s paying off.”
The result has been averaging a team-high 16.5 points per game while shooting a 59.1 percent from the field and 47.8 percent from three. He is also averaging 5.8 rebounds (second on the team) and 2.8 assists (second).
Reneau also has his six-best scoring games this season, including three games over 23 points.
Reneau has turned a corner over the last month, however.
His last four games are:
25 points on 10-of-14 shooting, 7 rebounds, 2 assists
34 points on 13-of-19 shooting, 11 rebounds, 4 assists
14 points on 4-of-9 shooting, 6 rebounds, 5 assists
23 points on 10-of-16 shooting, 7 rebounds, 1 assist
He’s averaging 24.8 points, 7.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists and is shooting 63.8 percent from the floor. He’s scoring in numerous ways as well.
Reneau is able to score on the block with the footwork and soft touch around the rim. While he can turn over either shoulder, he loves turning over his right shoulder on the right block. He’s able to take opponents off of the dribble from the top of the key this season. Now, his ability to step out from three is an added dimension.
Over the last four games, Reneau is 8-of-12 on 3s. For the season, he’s 11-of-23. Last year he was just 2-of-8.
“Being able to do everything on the court and this year I think I’ll be able to do that and show a lot more of my game,” Reneau said this offseason about his game. “Being able to step out and shoot the three ball, grab it off the rebound and push it. Just doing all the stuff that I am used to doing and just making it where I’m not making a lot of mistakes when I am doing it. Pushing the ball in transition, posting up, shooting threes, you know all that stuff. I just want to be able to show my all-around game.”
The added skillset and development he’s shown has allowed Indiana to ride his back throughout many games this season, especially in the second half.
In the same four game stretch, Reneau has scored nine, 21, 12 and 19 points in the second half — in that order. He’s accounted for 24 of the 57 made field goals in the second half for Indiana basketball — 42.1 percent.
Look no further than his performance against Ohio State, scoring 19 of his 23 after halftime. He had 11 of the first 13 points in the second half, finishing with 19 of the team’s 34 total points and eight of the 12 made field goals after halftime. He had the highest offensive rating of his career (127).
“When we went back to the locker room we told him, ‘you got to pick your game up. You’re not playing as well’. Malik responded,” Indiana basketball point guard Xavier Johnson said following the 71-65 win over Ohio State on Saturday. “I just told him, ‘I’ll find you. I’ll hit you in the pocket passes and go score the ball’, and he did.”
One of the biggest reasons for Reneau’s second-half dominance has been his ability to stay on the floor — something he struggled with last season. Reneau came into this year averaging 6.8 fouls per 40 minutes. This season he’s down to just 3.8.
He’s averaging just 1.5 fouls per game in the last four games. He’s fouled out of just one game this season and has 10 games with three or less fouls.
“Well, I think you watched him last season being a freshman, you could see signs of it. He just couldn’t stay on the floor because defensively he wasn’t moving his feet or he grabbed someone on a cut or would pick up senseless fouls and wouldn’t allow him to play,” Woodson said last week. “I thought this summer he spent a lot of time in Bloomington working on his body and his game, because all the fundamental tools are there for Malik. I mean, we knew that we were lucky to get him on the back end of his recruiting trail.”
There’s no doubt that Reneau’s game is rounding into shape.
He ranks second in the Big Ten in field goal percentage, second in effective field goal rate, third in two-point field goals made, sixth in true shooting percentage, ninth in total points produced, 11th in free throw attempts, 13th in assist rate and 14th in player efficiency rating.
“He’s grown, man,” Woodson said. “You’re starting to see some of that now, and a lot of it is because he’s mentally a little more mature than he was a year ago, and he’s trying to — he’s figured out how to stay on the floor somewhat this year versus sitting next to us over there on the bench, and in doing that, he’s doing a lot of good things for us on the basketball floor, which is kind of nice to see.”
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