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Understanding his game. Slowing down. Playing at his ‘own pace’ — Malik Reneau is starting to come into his own for Indiana basketball



Indiana basketball forward Malik Reneau
Malik Reneau turned in his second-straight career-high as he is starting to come into his own for Indiana basketball. (Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports)

Indiana basketball sophomore forward Malik Reneau waited his time, sitting behind an All-American senior and a sixth-year senior throughout his freshman season. Despite arriving a five-star talent, Reneau had a lot to learn and a lot of areas he needed to grow in. That’s now paying dividends throughout the first few months this season.

Reneau played behind Trayce Jackson-Davis and Race Thompson — two of the most well respected and effective duos in the Big Ten. He waited his time, learned a lot from the pair and went up against both every single day in practice, only helping his growth.

In Friday’s 100-87 win over Kennesaw State, Reneau turned in his second-straight career-high finishing with 34 points on 13-of-19 from the field with 11 rebounds and four assists.

“He’s getting better,” Indiana basketball head coach Mike Woodson said postgame. “Everybody talk about development and who is being developed and this and that. And Malik, based on where he started with us last season and where he is today, he’s a lot better.”

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Reneau has put together a phenomenal stretch of basketball. In his last two games he has totaled 59 points on 23-of-33 shooting, 18 rebounds and six assists in 64 minutes. He had 25 points on 10-of-14 shooting and 4-of-4 on 3s against North Alabama.

His 34 points on Friday were the most by an Indiana basketball player inside Assembly Hall since Nov. 27, 2021 when Trayce Jackson-Davis scored 43 points against Marshall.

Reneau had 21 of his 34 points after halftime. He had eight of Indiana’s 19 made field goals in the second half.

16 of his second half points came after Indiana saw it’s once 13-point lead turn into a four-point deficit with 13:16 remaining. He scored 16 of Indiana’s final 36 points to end the game.

“I’m very proud of Malik,” IU sophomore wing Kaleb Banks said postgame. “I feel like his work is showing and he’s showing well. I can recognize that. And Malik is finally reaping the benefits of his work. He can do a lot of things, rebound, pass, score. So tonight he really just showed us his scoring ability.”

‘Doing a lot of things’. That is exactly what Reneau worked on this offseason. Being able to score from anywhere on the floor. Becoming a more efficient playmaker. Those were just two of the areas that Reneau improved this offseason.

Through 13 games, Reneau is averaging a team-high 16.2 points per game while shooting 59.7 percent from the field. He’s also shooting 44.4 percent from three (8-of-18). He was just 2-of-8 on 3s a season ago.

Reneau is also averaging 2.8 assists per game. He had just 27 total assists as a freshman. This year, he ‘s already up to 36. He has five games with at least four assists, something he didn’t do at all as a freshman.

How’s he doing it? Understanding his game, slowing down and playing at his ‘own pace’.

“I really got the motivation from Trayce and Race, seeing how they played in the whole Big Ten and seeing how they dominated. I just needed time to understand the game and go out there,” Reneau said after his 34-point performance. “Now I’m playing nice and with my pace and being able to score on either block and finish with both hands, step out and create my shot from the 3 ball, shoot the 3 ball, too.

“I just feel like the year I had just watching Trayce’s stuff, I seen a lot. And now my game is slowing down and I’m able to create plays for myself and for others.”

Reneau was expected to play an extremely important and significant role this season for Indiana basketball. So, his increased production is no surprise. But, it’s the way in which he’s done it — scoring in the post, being able to step out and hit 3s, taking opponents off of the dribble and getting to the foul line.

That’s in large part to the work he’s put in with Calbert Cheaney.

“Yeah, I mean, building confidence. I’ve been working out with Coach Cheaney a lot, just understanding how he played the game, how he was able to work around the court, be able to get his shot wherever he wanted on the court,” Reneau said last week. “Just getting reps up, man, being confident when you go out there, not being scared to shoot the ball. I think that was the main part for me.”

Reneau ranks first in the Big Ten in effective field goal rate, third in field goal percentage, third in made 2s, sixth in the Big Ten in usage rate and 12th in assist rate.

“I think there’s a lot of room still to grow as a player,” Woodson added. “He’s just got to keep pushing and we’ve got to keep pushing him to get better.”

SEE ALSO: ‘Getting his shot wherever he wanted on the court’: How recent workouts with Calbert Cheaney have helped transform Malik Reneau’s game for Indiana basketball

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Alec Lasley is the owner of Hoosier Illustrated, a comprehensive site covering news, updates and recruiting for Indiana University athletics. Alec has covered Indiana for six years and is a credentialed media member. He has previously worked for both Rivals and 247Sports.