As talent evaluators, we have our biases. Over the course of my 16 years in basketball recruiting, I’ve developed a huge bias toward rebounders.
I once learned a difficult lesson. In 2001, Emeka Okafor led the city of Houston with an average of 18.8 rebounds per game. That number comes right off the top of my head. I’ll never forget it. Even knowing that statistic, admittedly, I came up woefully short with Okafor’s ranking. At the time, he was tagged No. 81 in the country. He couldn’t score, but boy could he rebound and reject shots.
From the debacle of the Okafor ranking, a lesson was learned: rebounding translates. It’s why I voted for DeJuan Blair for the McDonald’s All-American Game as a senior, even though he didn’t make it. It’s also why I’m as committed as anyone to the guys who hang big board numbers. It’s the one statistic that shouldn’t be overlooked because it demonstrates activity, toughness and willingness to remain engaged no matter the score. You average 18 rebounds a game, that’s serious business.
One more anecdote on why board work is important in recruiting: Rebounding is why Will Yeguete is a Florida Gator. In the fall of his senior year, Yeguete grabbed 50 rebounds in the span of three games at the Nike Team Florida Fall Workout. A week later, Tom Crean flew a private plane to see him and offered. St. John’s brought him in for a visit. And a month later, Florida offered him a scholarship. If he doesn’t rebound, he’s not in the SEC.
This is a list-oriented column, so before we get to the top 10 rebounders currently among the prep prospect ranks, here’s a peak at my all-time high school top five. It was tough to leave off guys like Amar’e Stoudemire, Dwight Howard, Shelden Williams and Kevin Bookout (whom we renamed Kevin “Boxout” at the time), but this all-time top five is a fun list: