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Men’s basketball dominating the glass in McCasland’s first year

Men’s basketball dominating the glass in McCasland’s first year

North Texas junior guard Michael Miller (23) recovers a rebound against Indiana State. Jake King/DRC

Men’s basketball dominating the glass in McCasland’s first year
February 07
20:11 2018

Grant McCasland sat at The Star in Frisco back on Oct. 31, 2017 surrounded by reporters and cameras, eager and ready for the season to begin. He answered questions honestly and thoroughly and detailed his team’s strengths and aired where his team needs to grow.

None of the worries he expressed, though, had as much concern behind them as his team’s inability to rebound.

“Rebounding is going to be our toughest area,” McCasland said. “I don’t think we rebound very well.”

With three unproven big men coming into the season — freshman Zachary Simmons, junior Tope Arikawe and senior Shane Temara — none of them seemed to be giving McCasland what he wanted on the glass in the offseason.

Eventually, after a lot of yelling in practice and chastising while watching film, the team found itself as more than just a competent rebounding team. The Mean Green have actually turned it into a strength. 

McCasland’s team is now No. 4 in Conference USA in rebounding margin as they out rebound opponents by an average of 3.2 per game. North Texas has a total rebounding percentage of 52.2 which is tied for No. 88 in the country out of 351 teams.

A large part of the success has been the team’s aggression. This comes in the form of physical play and boxing out hard in practice, which has been a struggle for several new players to adjust to.

“As a team, we’ve improved dramatically,” McCasland said. “But there are some individuals on our team that it’s not natural for them to play physical to initiate contact. That’s a daily grind to get that where we want it and maintain that.”

While McCasland will never be satisfied with the team’s play in any area, the rebounding numbers speak for themselves. He has created an environment of playing hard and physical which has already translated to his young team.

Another noteworthy trait about this team when concerning rebounding is the guards ability to attack the glass on the defensive end. Sophomore guard A.J. Lawson leads the team in rebounding with 5.5 per game, and sophomore point guard Ryan Woolridge averages 4.9 per game.

Freshman forward Zachary Simmons averages only four rebounds in 18.3 minutes per game. He also has the fourth lowest defensive rebounding percentage of any player on the team, which is abnormal for the tallest and longest player on the team.

A large reason for this is the emphasis on guards rebounding and pushing the pace from the defensive glass. In the video below, Temara uses his body to box out an opponent without even going for the ball. He lets sophomore guard Roosevelt Smart grab it uncontested and the break gets started. This is what Simmons does more frequently than any other big on the team.

“A lot of times his job is just to make sure his guy doesn’t get it,” McCasland said of Simmons. “Then we rebound as a team, and that’s why our guards have high rebounding numbers, and that’s a credit to Zach.”

A real help to the rebounding numbers is the fact that the Mean Green defense is forcing more misses than last year as well. Teams are shooting only 42.5 percent from the field and 33 percent from 3-point range against North Texas, which bodes well for defensive rebounding stats.

Statistically, Temara and Arikawe have the highest rebounding percentages on the team, and their strong frame and build allows them to wrestle for position down low. This is the case for Lawson too, as he often finds himself as the second biggest player on the court for the Mean Green. 

The returning players have admitted throughout the season there is a newfound aggression with this team. Last year, they were out rebounded by three rebounds per game, and the turnaround has been staggering and a nice surprise to everyone involved.

The attention to detail on cleaning the glass is just different this year — and it’s paying off. 

“There’s more of an emphasis on going to get it with two hands,” Temara said. “Guys are really just going to get [the ball] because if you don’t go get it, [you get called out] in film sessions, so you better go get that thing.”

Featured Image: North Texas junior guard Michael Miller (23) recovers a rebound against Indiana State. Jake King/DRC

About Author

Matthew Brune

Matthew Brune

Matthew Brune is the Senior Sports Writer for the North Texas Daily, covering football and men's basketball.

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