Rethinking Rebounding: Being #1 Not so Great

April 2nd, 2007


For any NBA general managers who need rebounding help (and who doesn’t these days), I implore you to think twice before taking the best rebounder in college basketball from this past season. Not Durant or Oden; not Fazekas or Big Baby. Don’t get me wrong, as I think Rashad Jones-Jennings of Arkansas-Little Rock is a fantastic player: he led the Trojans in scoring and blocks; led the nation in rebounding; made more than 50% of his field goals; and put up a double-double against three teams who made it to the NCAA tournament (Texas Tech, Belmont, and North Texas). However, being the best rebounder in the country does not often translate to success at the next level.

This season Jones-Jennings became the 15th different player in NCAA history to lead the nation in rebounding while simultaneously averaging more rebounds than points. The tallest of those other 14 big men (and the only one to average more than 20 PPG) went on to have an outstanding career in the NBA, while four others played several years in the NBA, and two others had a cup of coffee in the NBA/ABA, but half of the 14 did not play a single minute of professional basketball after being the best in the country on the boards:

Year Name, School, Height, Class RPG PPG NBA
1952 Bill Hannon, Army, 6-3, SO 20.9 16.3
1953 Ed Conlin, Fordham, 6-5, SO 23.5 18.2 7 years
1954 Art Quimby, Connecticut, 6-5, JR 22.6 16.3
1955 Charlie Slack, Marshall, 6-5, JR 25.6 19.4
1959 Leroy Wright, Pacific, 6-8, JR 25.1* 14.8 ABA
1960 Leroy Wright, Pacific, 6-8, SR 22.4* 15.9 ABA
1964 Bob Pelkington, Xavier, 6-7, SR 21.8 13.1
1965 Toby Kimball, Connecticut, 6-8, SR 21.0 19.8 9 years
1967 Dick Cunningham, Murray State, 6-10, JR 21.8 15 7 years
1971 Artis Gilmore, Jacksonville, 7-2, SR 23.2 21.9 12 years (also ABA)
1975 John Irving, Hofstra, 6-9, SO 15.4 13.4
1976 Sam Pellom, Buffalo, 6-8, SO 16.2 14.9 4 years
1979 Monti Davis, Tennessee State, 6-7, JR 16.2 12.1 2 games
1999 Ian McGinnis, Dartmouth, 6-8, SO 12.2 8.2
2002 Jeremy Bishop, Quinnipiac, 6-6, JR 12.0 11.1
2007 Rashad Jones-Jennings, AR Little Rock, 6-8, SR 13.1 12.5
*From 1956 through 1962, rebounds were calculated by highest individual recoveries out of total by both teams in all games.

There were three other rebounding champs for whom I was unable to find scoring stats (if anyone can track them down, please let me know):

Year Name, School, Height, Class RPG PPG NBA
1966 Jim Ware, Oklahoma City, 6-8, SR 20.9 ? 2 years
1978 Ken Williams, North Texas, 6-7, SR 14.7 ?
1981 Darryl Watson, Mississippi Valley, 6-7, SR 14.0 ?

So, if Jones-Jennings can learn how to score more, or grow 6 inches before the draft this summer, he just might catch on with a team who needs help on the glass. If not, then perhaps he can take a trip overseas to battle some soft foreign guys in the paint.