When teaching or coaching rebounding, what’s most often talked about is boxing out. Now, before I get tossed from the Fraternal Order of the Brotherhood of the Knights of Coaches Association Internationale, let me say squarely, “boxing out is important”. But the problem with boxing out and why it may occupy too much a space in the world of “rebounding fundamentals” is, it’s not always feasible. I mean, it is difficult, if not impossible, to “put a body on” an offensive player if when the shot is taken you are more than say eight feet away from the player you should be boxing out, which is often the case. No one’s gonna do it. If you do that, i.e., seek out that player to put a body on, you may, in fact, lose an opportunity to actually go get the ball. So, if you can’t box out, what should you do to help your team secure possession? Instead, or additionally (don’t want to lose that coach’s card!), I believe in practicing “predicting the flight and location of the carom”. In other words, learning where the ball will go when it comes off the rim.
Rodman was really good at this. If a three pointer was taken, he could tell when it was going to miss and he could tell where that miss would land. He was also often the only one moving there. Bird, of course, also possessed this skill. (Remember when he followed the shot to the right baseline and, in the air, flipped it in with his left hand? He knew where that ball was going to be.)
When players are rebounding in shooting drills, I ask them not to let the ball hit the floor. This requires one to have knees bent and be ready-to-go, and it teaches the whole predicting thing. Assistant coaches are the best, the best predictors of the flight of the ball, because they are always feeding players shots and rebounding the ball to feed the next shot. If you’ve seen enough balls in the air, you learn to tell from the flight where on the rim it will hit (if it hits) and depending on where it hits, were it will fly to. I’ve always imagined Jeff van Gundy, a hardworking assistant for many years, to be really good at this. (If you see him, tell him I was wondering.)
When I was growing up in Albany, we lived near Siena College. I was over there playing one day (actually every day), eighth grade, I think, when a flatfooted, 6’6″ kid from Long Island who was on the freshman team taught me and a buddy of mine the game “Tips”. It turns out “Tips” is a great way to learn where the rebound is going.
Here’s the game: one person shoots from the foul line. If he makes it, he gets a point. If he misses, the rebounder tries to tip in the rebound. Tipping in the rebound gets you to the FT line to shoot free throws. Your feet have to be off the floor for it to count as a legal tip. Also, the tipper can tip up to three times on that missed shot. In other words, if you miss the first tip, you can tip your own miss but, again, you’ve gotta be off the floor on the tip (quick jumping!). If the free throw shooter makes it, she then shoots another. If she makes three in a row, then the next made free throw has to be shot lefty or off-hand. Make three in a row off-hand then you can go back to righty. Every made FT is a point. You miss and the other player tips it in, the other person takes over at the line. Tip-in counts as two. Game is to twenty-one. You watch the flight of the ball, all geared up with quickness and life, you fly to the spot and tip it in. Easy. It’s a great game that I and a friend of mine (John Carvill, the greatest Shaker High School player that never was) played a million times as junior high and high school kids. (Also really good for your FT shooting! Um, I guess Rodman never took to that part of the game.)