Washington Evening Journal
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Neighbors Growing Together | Apr 23, 2014

Talk with D-Rok

By Derek Helling, Sports Editor | Jan 30, 2014

I’ve been covering high school basketball in Washington County, Iowa for all of nearly three weeks now.  That isn’t enough time to call myself even a novice as far as covering the sport in the area goes, much less an expert. However, there is one way in which I can provide expert perspective regardless of my lack of experience. To my good fortune, numbers speak if you will listen and they never, ever, lie.
I took some time amidst my normal duties; at The Washington Evening Journal, as a fan of the Iowa Hawkeyes, Miami Heat and Florida Panthers, and finding new ways to get my nephews in trouble with my sister, to do some research. I looked through the box scores I had available to me on QuikStats Iowa and pulled as a sample 161 basketball games played by the Washington County high schools. The boys’ and girls’ teams from Washington, Mid-Prairie, Highland, Keota, Iowa Mennonite, Columbus Community and WACO were all part of the sample.
In those 161 games there was one statistic that stood out as a deciding factor.
Michael Jordan, current President of the Charlotte Bobcats (soon to be Hornets again) and NBA Hall-of-Famer said, “When I was young, I had to learn the fundamentals of basketball. You can have all the physical ability in the world, but you still have to know the fundamentals.”
That statistic, that fundamental, is rebounding. Out of those 161 games I sampled, the team that grabbed the most rebounds also won the game 109 times. That’s just a hair under 68 percent correlation. The correlation between rebounding and winning was a little stronger for boys’ teams than girls’ teams.
76 of the 161 games sampled were boys’ games. Out of those 76, 55 of them fit the criteria of having the team that out-rebounded the other winning the game. That’s an impressive correlation of 72 percent. Of the 85 girls’ games surveyed, 54 of them or 64 percent fit the criteria. The strongest correlation for one team was Keota’s boys’ team. Of their 13 games that were looked at, 11 of them were won by the team that had the higher rebounding margin.  
As I learned in my time at The University of Iowa in my Sport Studies classes, correlation does not equal causation. Other factors such as shooting percent and turnovers played into every one of these games. It’s also true that 52 of those 161 games or just over 32 percent were won by the team that didn’t grab the most rebounds. Let me put 68 percent in some perspective, though.
If a team plays 21 games in a regular season and wins 68 percent of them, they would finish with a record of 14 wins and seven losses. If you make $30,000 net in a year and save 68 percent of it, at the end of the year you would have $20,400 in your savings account. If a Major League Baseball player was successful at the plate 68 percent of the time for one season, it would be called the greatest season any hitter has ever had in the history of the game. If I had put into practice 68 percent of the advice my mother gave me growing up, I would have avoided a lot of problems.
I’m sure the basketball coaches in the area are well aware of the fact that rebounding influences outcomes. I’m confident that they have preached this fact to their teams. Guess what, kids? They aren’t crazy old men/women after all. The numbers show that they have been telling you the truth all along.
One of the NBA’s greatest rebounders ever, Dennis Rodman, said of rebounding, “the thing I do that most other guys don’t is I jump three or four times for a rebound.” It was said that Rodman would watch his teammates shoot in practice to learn where they would miss when they missed. His effort and preparation helped him win five championships and get inducted into the Hall of Fame despite not being a great offensive player.
If you’re playing high school basketball right now by all means continue to work on your ball-handling and shooting. Keep up the effort on making your defensive skills natural. In addition, don’t neglect the simple fundamental of boxing out your opponent when a shot goes up. More shots are going to come off the hoop than will find the bottom of the net in a game. How well you rebound will have a large part to play in the game’s outcome. That’s not me talking, but the numbers.

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