By VYPE U Keion Cage
What if I told you that the 2018 Texas high school state runner-up Katy Tompkins boys basketball team was able to reunite again?
Well, this would be an intro to a 30-for-30 episode on ESPN, but this is more of a public service announcement as hip-hop legend Jay-Z would say.
The Tompkins Falcons former trio of Jamal Bieniemy, Kristian Sjolund and Emmanuel White are getting back together, but this time the show will be El Paso, Texas with Miners across their chest. The former Falcons are reuniting on the collegiate level at University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP).
"UTEP is on the rise as a program. We love what Coach Terry is trying to do and their basketball history," said White. "We all love the coaching staff and fans. We can't wait to play out there next year."
The 2018 Falcons team is arguably one of the best boys basketball teams to come from the competitive Katy ISD. It has been over two years since Bieniemy, Sjolund, and White played together at Tompkins. The last time people saw them in the same uniform was in the 2018 Texas 6A State State Championship game. A game that ended in a two-point loss and closed the chapter of their high school careers.
Before they knew it, they were enrolling into college for the 2018 fall semester on basketball scholarships. Bieniemy enrolled at the University of Oklahoma (OU) while White went to Coastal Bend College (CBC). Sjolund attended Georgia Tech (GT).
Bieniemy had a stellar career at OU starting as the point guard in 47 out of 65 games. Bieniemy is a player that consistently has his imprints all over the game and is a natural leader on the court. He is a 6-foot-5, long-armed point guard that plays sound defense and protects the ball while getting his teammates involved.
"I am going to UTEP with the mindset to get better at everything in my game," said Bieniemy. "It feels good to play with White and Sjolund again. They are my brothers so it will be fun to push each other everyday."
White has shown the ability to score, rebound and play defense at Coastal Bend College. In his 31 games, he averaged 13.4 points and four rebounds while shooting 36-percent from the three-point line.
"Coastal Bend College has helped me grow as a player. I was able to grow mentally and dedicate myself to my craft," said White. "Now, I am bringing my shooting ability and versatile defense to UTEP."
Sjolund did not see much playing time his freshman year and red-shirted his sophomore year at Georgia Tech, but the 6-foot-8 forward has shown in the past that he can help stretch the floor with his three-point shooting. He has also shown glimpses of his ball-handling improvements and point forward potential that he hopes to display UTEP.
"The transition was not easy, but the hard work paid off and it definitely showed," said Sjolund. "I learned the level of speed, quickness and strength that is required to succeed at the college level. Also, I learned the importance of being able to fit into a system and culture."
These three have not only been teammates, but they have built a strong and genuine friendship off the court. They have known and played together since their AAU basketball days.
"I think it's a tremendous opportunity for these three guys who are former teammates and good friends to be able to attend a university like UTEP," said their former AAU coach, Stephon Leary. "Friendship off the court always leads to better play on the court. These guys having a long-lasting friendship will help with team chemistry and team energy."
Bieniemy, Sjolund and White friendship goes beyond the game of basketball. Their friendship played a key role that helped lead the Falcons to become the first Katy ISD boys basketball team to reach the state tournament.
"We have to continue to hold ourselves to a higher standard," said Bieniemy. "UTEP is a school with a lot of pride. As a community, they are hungry to get back to the top. I'm excited for the journey ahead of us."
Bieniemy, Sjolund and White look to help take University of Texas at El Paso back to the NCAA tournament to show the world how strong their bond truly is, because as people say -- birds of a feather flock together.