"Xavier's Jalen Reynolds has only grabbed double-figure rebounds five times in 68 college games. Built like an Adonis. Needs to eat glass." Jon Rothstein tweeted that yesterday. On the surface, it seems like a valid point. Jalen runs fast, jumps high, stands just a few inches shy of seven feet, and looks like he was carved out of granite. Why doesn't he get like ten boards a half?
There are a couple of ways to look at this, and we'll start with the most direct: rebounding rates. For the uninitiated, what a rebounding rate measures is what percentage of missed shots a player rebounds when he is on the floor. If there are two misses and I grab one of them, my rebounding rate is 50%. If there's a third miss and I don't get it, my rebounding rate drops to 33%. If the coach takes me out for whatever reason (probably because I was too dominant and he's shaving points) and someone misses, my rebounding rate stays at 33% regardless of who got the board. Being on the bench is punishment enough; penalizing me for not getting those boards would be a bridge too far. Got it? Good.
Anyway, Jalen's are dominant. His OReb% of 11.9% was 125th in the nation last year, and his DReb% of 24.6% was 35th. Lest you think he was just harvesting from the Northern Arizonas and Murray States of the world, his rates both rose in conference play. His OReb% in conference was 12.3% (6th) and his DReb% was 28.3% (2nd). Also keep in mind that these are two separate skill sets we're looking at here. It's not that rare to find someone who rebounds well at one end and poorly at the other due to a variety of reasons ranging from where his teammates misses go to where the coach stations him. Jalen dominates the glass at both ends of the floor.
If you're not into stats that haven't been showing up in box scores since Dr. Naismith tacked the peach baskets up, don't worry, Jalen has you covered there, too. If you're just looking at minutes, Jalen has had 44 career games in which he has played at least 15 minutes. In those games he has pulled down double-digit boards five times and had eight or nine rebounds six more times, a veritable Bob Feller of double-digit rebound games. In games in which he gets at least 15 minutes of playing time, Jalen is averaging 6.3 rebounds. In games in which he doesn't, he's averaging 2.4.
To avoid the chicken-or-egg argument, (i.e., maybe he gets pulled because he's not boarding, accounting for low rebound and minutes totals) consider this: he is averaging .30 rebounds per minute in games of 15+ minutes played. He's averaging .29 rebounds per minute in games of 14 or fewer minutes played.
So where is the disconnect between Jalen's rebounding rates and his raw numbers? The whistles. We all know that there's nothing Jalen apparently loves more than running into people who are trying to play basketball, but his propensity for doing that really kills his production. In games were he got fewer than 15 minutes of playing time, he averaged being called for a foul every 3:36. Think about the math on that; 15 minutes of playing time would have basically fouled him out. In games that he got 15+ minutes, he got called for a foul every 7:07. He basically doubles his span of time between fouls, and his production leaps apace.
Anyway, I resent the implication by Rothstein that Jalen doesn't "eat glass" and its concomitant questioning of either his drive or his commitment to the team. There aren't but a handful of players who "eat glass" the way that Jalen does. What he needs is not more commitment to the glass, it's just more minutes, and the only way he gets there is through fewer fouls. The only thing between Jalen and some Moses Malone numbers is that pesky rule book.