It’s no secret rebounding is one of the pillars Tad Boyle has leaned heavily upon throughout his Colorado tenure as he goes into his 12th season as the Buffaloes’ men’s basketball coach.
Season 11 a year ago offered a unique blueprint for how that load-bearing pillar was executed. Individually, the Buffaloes lacked a standout rebounder. Collectively, they got the job done via committee just fine.
Yet heading into the 2021-22 season, much of that previous committee has moved on. As the Buffs continue to go through preseason workouts, Boyle once again expects the rebounding work to be done en masse. Figuring out who will be the leading players on the new glass committee is one of the most important details of the October practices.
“I think that’s something, it’s yet to be seen,” Boyle said when asked where his club will get its rebounds this season. “That’s something, as we stat in practice every day, I look and I think Jabari (Walker) and Nique Clifford right now. Nique has been really rebounding the ball very, very well. Tristan (da Silva) has been doing a better job. It’s something we’ve really challenged him to do.
“I think it’s a collective effort. I always look at rebounds per minute. That kind of gives me an idea, if I played him for 40 minutes, he’d get these many rebounds. That really kind of equalizes it a little bit. It’s a little more difficult to do in practice. But certainly when the games start, that’s something I look at. You may play eight minutes but get four rebounds. That’s pretty efficient. If you play 28 minutes with four rebounds, not so much.”
As is typically the case, the Buffs were one of the strongest rebounding teams in the Pac-12 Conference last season, ranking fourth in league games in overall rebounds per game (34.4) while finishing tied for third in average rebound margin (plus-3.4).
What was somewhat unusual for CU last season was how the Buffs got the job done without a standout individual on the glass. Since-departed senior Jeriah Horne was the team’s leading rebounder at 5.8 per game — the lowest mark for a season leader during Boyle’s tenure and the lowest since Alec Burks led the 2009-10 squad with 5.0 rebounds per game.
Nevertheless, CU said farewell to 14.2 rebounds per game with the departures of Horne, McKinley Wright IV, and D’Shawn Schwartz. Senior Evan Battey (5.3 per game) is the top returning rebounder. But, since he lacks the raw athleticism of former premier Buffs rebounders like Andre Roberson and Tyler Bey, any jump in Battey’s rebounding totals likely will be relatively modest.
Walker certainly fits the bill of an athletic forward who can chase down rebounds, and he averaged 4.3 per game while putting together consecutive 10-rebound games in January (10 at Utah, 11 against Cal). Taking that next step will require Walker to remain healthy (he missed six games last year due to a foot injury) and produce more consistently after being prone to foul trouble as a freshman.
“We’ll get a feel for that as the season unfolds,” Boyle said. “We’ve got a lot of guys that are capable. Defensively, we always want five guys rebounding the ball for sure. Offensively, they all have responsibilities. I don’t expect our guards to get as many offensive rebounds as I expect our three, four and fives to.
“Evan is what I call a position rebounder. He’s not necessarily going to go get balls that are way outside of his area. I’m not saying he can’t, but it’s an easy way to pick up fouls. Guys like Andre, Andre was one of the best out-of-position rebounders we’ve ever had because he was so bouncy. Tyler was that way, too. He could tip balls and keep them alive and get them on the second jump. Evan, his rebounding numbers, there’s no reason why they can’t go up. But it will be collective for sure.”