Some players have a knack. Whether because they plot their moves in advance, study alternatives, or just follow their instincts, they seem to know where to go when a shot comes off rim or backboard.
This is not the same as bulling to the basket, muscling inside to grab a rebound. Not to say that force isn’t part of the equation, but it’s force intelligently applied, a lever positioned to move a rock. After all, there are often defenders in the way and officials watching for missteps.
A few modern players particularly come to mind that fit the profile in coming at rebounds with relentless efficiency, especially on the offensive end.
Georgia Tech’s Matt Harpring came at the boards by studying the trajectories of bounces when teammates shot during practice. The 6-7 forward from Cincinnati was voted first-team All-ACC from 1996 through 1998, twice finishing among the league rebounding leaders.
NC State’s TJ Warren was selected as the ACC 2014 player of the year, leading the league in scoring and field goal percentage, second in offensive rebounds per game. Asked his secret, the 6-8 Durham product said essentially that he just went and got the ball.
Which brings us to last year’s ACC rebounding leader, UNC’s Armando Bacot. The 6-10 big man from Richmond accumulated 13.1 rebounds per game, most by an ACC player since Tim Duncan (14.7) in 1997. Duncan, a senior, was a repeat pick that season for the league’s player of the year.
Bacot is a master of controlled aggression, using quickness and guile to augment strength and size inside. He served as the bulwark of a Final Four squad and would have been a solid pick for ACC player of the year, though the award went to Alondes Williams as surprising Wake Forest won 25 times.
That Bacot came back for the ’23 season, his lack of a mid-range jumper and strong ball skills limiting his NBA draft potential, helped immediately establish North Carolina among the favorites to win the upcoming NCAA title. His presence also whetted teammates’ appetites to return for another run at NCAA glory, mirroring UNC’s rebound from a 2008 loss in the Final Four to a 2009 national championship behind star Tyler Hansbrough.
Bacot’s rebound average in ’22 was among the 20 best to lead the ACC in its nearly 70-year history. He notched five 20-rebound games, including 22 against Duke in the Final Four – playing on a bad ankle. The four-year senior’s totals are no small feat in the modern game when improved field goal efficiency reduces overall chances on the boards compared to the league’s early days.
Bacot can repeat as ACC rebounding leader this season, an achievement he would share with 14 previous players, three in this century.
|BACOT SIZZLES ON THE BOARDS
Repeat ACC Leaders in Per-Game Rebounds
|Player, School||Seasons Led||Averages Per Game|
|Dickie Hemric, WF||1954, 1955||15.1, 19.0|
|Len Chappell, WF||1961, 1962||14.0, 15.2|
|Billy Cunningham, NC||1963, 1964, 1965||16.1, 15.8, 14.3|
|Tom Owens, SC||1969, 1970, 1971||13.0, 14.9, 12.8|
|Tom Burleson, NCS||1972, 1973||14.0, 12.0|
|Tree Rollins, C||1975, 1977||11.7, 11.7|
|Ralph Sampson, V||1980, 1982, 1983||11.2, 11.4, 11.7|
|Buck Williams, M||1979, 1981||10.8, 11.7|
|Horace Grant, C||1986, 1987||10.5, 9.6|
|Dale Davis, C||1989, 1990, 1991||8.9, 11.3, 12.1|
|Tim Duncan, WF||1995, 1996, 1997||12.5, 12.3, 14.7|
|Travis Watson, V||2002, 2003||9.7, 10.4|
|Shelden Williams, D||2005, 2006||11.2, 10.7|
|John Mooney, ND||2019, 2020||12.6, 12.4|