Considering the height that the Cal State Bakersfield men’s basketball team lost from last year, head coach Rod Barnes wondered prior to the 2018-19 season about whether his group would have problems rebounding. He knew he had athletic and quick players but no one was taller than 6-foot-9.
“Obviously, it was a concern,” Barnes said.
It was a concern that lasted only a few games into the year. CSUB out-rebounded San Jose State and Weber State in the early-season Bahamas tournament before doing the same to a much bigger USC team.
The Roadrunners have been a solid rebounding team overall and almost dominant on the offensive glass. CSUB is averaging 14.5 offensive rebounds per game, best in the conference and third in the nation. Despite their small size, the Roadrunners (15-7, 6-2 Western Athletic) have thrived at getting second chances on offense, which will be key when they host New Mexico State (18-4, 7-1) on Thursday at 7 p.m. in the Icardo Center.
No one on the team is better at grabbing missed shots on offense than CSUB’s de facto center, 6-foot-7 forward James Suber. His 3.36 offensive rebounds per game is the best mark in the conference and 18th in the country among Division I players. He has 74 offensive and 94 defensive rebounds on the year.
Suber started December with three straight games with six offensive rebounds and had a season-high of seven set on Jan. 24 at Cal Baptist. CSUB had a season-high 23 offensive boards in that one.
“I don’t know how he does it, but his positioning is just like always perfect," Roadrunners forward Justin Edler-Davis said. "… It just feels like his hands are just magnetic or something and the ball just gravitates towards him.”
Suber thinks the majority of his rebounds on offense come on plays where a guard is driving toward the basket for a layup, runner or pull-up shot near the lane. As his (usually taller) defender watches the player with the ball gather to take a shot, Suber hit him with a forearm to create space to get inside positioning. He usually catches them off guard, Suber said.
On pick and rolls, he’s not really looking to get the pass. He’s trying to get back to the basket with a running start at any potential miss. In those situations, he can fake going left or right and cut back the either way to get a free shot at the ball.
And when he’s stuck down low with two bigger opponents — which is becoming increasingly common — Suber is willing to tip the ball out to a teammates or out of bounds off an opponent.
“I don’t really look to get the ball too much to score like a guard. Our guards can really score,” Suber said. “So what I tell them to do is, ‘Get your shot up on the rim,’ and I tell them I’ll go get it.”
Early in the year, he had a problem racking up fouls by going over the back but after a talking to from the coaches, Suber put an end to that, he said.
Edler-Davis, a 6-foot-4 forward, is second on the team with 37 offensive rebounds. He tries to find angles along the baseline to get inside, or heads around the foul line when an teammate launches a 3-pointer. Taze Moore, a 6-foot-5 guard/forward, often waits in the back before jumping up to snatch a rebound.
“Position to position, we’re pretty fast so it gives us an opportunity,” Barnes said.
The extra chances don’t always translate into points, though. Against Cal Baptist, CSUB’s 23 offensive rebounds led to 13 second chance points (six made field goals). There was one possession when the Roadrunners needed four offensive boards off of missed shots before Edler-Davis finally drew a foul to get to the line.
“Our guys have taken pride in the offensive glass so we’ve done a really good job there,” Barnes said. “... We’ve got to just try to capitalize on it. I think we’re getting more offensive rebounds. We just got to try to get more points out of it.”