Keys for winning the battle at the boards By James Rowe, head boys coach, Woodinville High School, Washington

Our team considers rebounding one of the most important elements to winning games. We don’t consider the total number of rebounds to be the key, rather it’s the rebounding differential that matters most. We know that if our team shoots well, there won’t be as many offensive rebounds to grab. Likewise, if our opponent shoots well, there won’t be as many defensive rebounds to grab.

If you’re a good offensive rebounding team, this increases your offensive ratings point-per-possession stats. If you’re a good defensive rebounding team, it limits your opponent’s offensive stats and increases your team’s defensive stats. Rebounding is also a good indicator of other things on your team. If there are an excessive amount of offensive rebounds, you may want to take a close look at your players’ shot selection. If you’re not securing many defensive rebounds, you should study your perimeter defense and the opponent’s shooting percentage.

The reason our team doesn’t measure total rebounds in a game is due to the tempo. It’s more accurate to measure rebounding differential in a contest. Limiting the opponent’s shot attempts should increase your defensive stats. The reason I say “should” is because you need to keep their shooting percentage down so there are more rebounds to be grabbed.

Rebounding technique is broken down into various components consisting of the following areas:

  • Attitude. Players must play and act as if every rebound is theirs.
  • Contact. First step into the opposing player, then release to the ball.
  • Block out. By using either a reverse or forward pivot.
  • Control. Players must learn to use their lower body to keep the opponents off the boards.
  • Hands. Have palms inward, learn to “hold” the opponent off with the back of the hands.
  • Securing the rebound. Use two hands with elbows out, chin the ball, and pivot toward the outlet player.

Offensive rebounders should try to avoid contact. Dive toward the hoop if the opponent isn’t boxing out. If blocked out, the offensive rebounder should use a spin move or can step away then go back and try to hook and go around the opponent.

2-on-2 box-out drill 

Have the offensive players form two lines at the top of the key, and the two defenders set up inside the key facing the opponent. Place a coach on each side of the two lines, each holding a ball. One of the coaches shoots, and the defenders block out. The defenders have to grab rebounds on three consecutive possessions to get out of the drill and go to the offensive line. Each group of two has at least one turn on defense.

This drill really tests the defensive rebounders. They begin to tire as the drill continues, and they’re always facing a fresh offensive group.

3-on-3 box-out drill 

This drill is the same as the 2-on-2 drill, but you can have the defensive players work out of a man or zone alignment. This drill forces defenders to account for the ball-side, high-post and weak-side positions. Have the offense rotate in a triangular motion or keep them stationary. They must secure the rebound on three consecutive possessions to go on offense.

You can also modify the drill and set it up so that players need to score a point to get on defense and then work to get out of the drill by grabbing three consecutive defensive rebounds. To play defense, players have to score a basket or grab an offensive rebound. This increases the players will and desire to play defense.

2-on-2 offensive box-outs vs. denials

Have the ball on one side of the floor. While one player is denying on defense, his or her partner is playing help side. When a shot goes up, the off-the-ball offensive rebounder has to locate his or her opponent, box out and secure the offensive rebound. The shooter follows the shot, using a variety of moves to get around the defender and crashes the boards.

‘Rebound Wars’ drill

This drill is similar to a famous rebounding game that Tom Izzo uses at Michigan State University. Set the number of players — 5-on-5, 4-on-4, 3-on-3 — and have the players play up to a predetermined set point total. The scoring system is as follows: Teams get two points for an offensive rebound, one point for a defensive rebound, one point for a basket, and two fouls in one possession results in a point for the offense.

Team box-out drill

Play a 5-on-5 block-out game. If the defense gets the board, it gets one point. If the offense gets the board, it gets two points.

A coach shoots 20 shots. Each team has 10 possessions on offense and defense. The team with the highest point total upon completion of the drill wins, and the losing team pays some sort of “penalty” (e.g., sprints, push-ups, jump rope, clean-up duties after practice). The winners get a water break or some type of small reward. This competitive atmosphere increases the intensity of your practices.

Tell your players that when it comes to rebounding, no one will ever get mad at them if they grab too many rebounds. Tell them to remember the following basketball axiom:

  • If you shoot too much, you’re considered a gunner.
  • If you dribble too much, you’re considered a ball hog.
  • If you pass too much, you’re not aggressive enough.
  • But if you rebound too much, you’re considered a Stallion.




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