Through the first month of the season, Wichita State is the country’s No. 1 rebounding team. The Shockers are grabbing on average 15.9 more rebounds than their opponents and 60.3 percent of possible rebounds, both the highest marks in Division I.
So how do you explain a team that’s not particularly tall leading the country in rebounding?
There’s several factors to explaining that, but a good place to start is this rebound by Austin Reaves with 14 seconds remaining in No. 8 Wichita State’s 69-62 victory over No. 16 Baylor in Waco on Saturday.
Why is Wichita State the #1 rebounding team in college basketball?— Taylor Eldridge (@tayloreldridge) December 4, 2017
Lots of reason, but here’s a great clip to start with. WSU so committed to checking out. Kelly/Nurger/Frankamp do it so well that ball hits ground and Reaves swoops in for the rebound. pic.twitter.com/d4BecV0rH2
The play starts as Baylor point guard Manu Lecomte attacks WSU’s defense in transition, then lays the ball off to Nuni Omot on the right wing for a three-pointer that could have cut WSU’s lead to two points.
When the ball leaves Omot’s hand, Rauno Nurger doesn’t have ideal box-out position against his man, Rashard Kelly and Conner Frankamp are floating in no man’s zone without an obvious player to box out, and Austin Reaves is standing at the top of the perimeter.
What happens in the next few seconds shows WSU’s discipline and commitment to rebounding. Watch the clip over and keep your eyes on Kelly and then Frankamp. As soon as the ball goes up, they turn immediately and identify a player they can box out.
“Our ultimate goal when the ball goes up is to move whoever is trying to get the offensive rebound out the way,” WSU senior Shaquille Morris said. “We do what we have to do to get our defenders on our backs.”
In this case, Kelly hustles from the right side of the lane all the way across to make sure the free Baylor player roaming for a weak-side rebound is sealed, while Frankamp’s diligence to check Baylor’s Jake Lindsey pays dividends when the ball caroms off the rim.
Combined with Nurger moving his man further underneath the basket to improve his rebounding chances, WSU has fully accounted for every potential offensive-rebounding threat on Baylor.
That becomes evident when Omot’s shot rolls off right in front of the rim and actually bounces — how many rebounds that come off straight over the rim fall to the ground untouched? — as Kelly, Nurger, and Frankamp have all sealed their targets. The possession ends when Reaves comes swooping in to snag the rebound.
“I think that play right there can be a teaching lesson to everyone watching, all of the young kids,” Kelly told me after the game. “That shows you how important boxing out is.”
While it may seem a little nerve-wracking for the defensive rebound not to be secured above the rim, WSU coach Gregg Marshall said seeing a rebound like that — where the ball bounces before a guard crashes down to secure it — is a coach’s dream.
“That’s how you diagram it,” Marshall said. “If you get everyone to box out, then the ball can hit the ground. There are actually drills where we make the ball hit the ground like that.”
Rebounding numbers are always discussed and assigned great importance, but the actual act of completing a rebound and what players have to do to secure them sometimes goes overlooked. Marshall and his staff are great at preaching the details to WSU, as you can see in this play.
It may have seem like a random, end-of-game rebound, but the play encapsulated why Wichita State is grabbing 80 percent of defensive rebounds and the most dominant rebounding team in college basketball right now.