Ranking the 10 Most Dominant Rebounders in College Basketball History
Rebounding has always been and will forever be hard work.
When a player goes to the boards, he usually is being bumped and hit and pushed in the process.
Rebounding requires getting position and blocking out. More than just jumping up in the air to grab the ball, rebounding involves putting a body on an opponent and making sure that he isn't going to get the ball.
Without saying that "Rebounding is a lost art," I will state that fewer and fewer current players want to do what is necessary to be a beast on the boards.
Here are the 10 most dominant rebounders in college basketball history. As you go through the list, it won't take long to notice something curious about the time period during which these players played.
To create this list, average rebounds per game was the statistic used. Total rebounds were not utilized because that gives a distinct advantage to players who played more games. By looking at the per game average, we can "level the court" and see who really was most effective at hitting the glass.
Rebounding statistics from sports-reference.com
It would be hard to put together a list of top collegiate rebounders without mentioning the following players who did great work on the boards:
Kenneth Faried (Morehead State) 1,673 rebounds in 136 games: 12.3 RPG
Tim Duncan (Wake Forest) 1,570 rebounds in 128 games: 12.3 RPG
Derrick Coleman (Syracuse) 1,537 rebounds in 143 games: 10.7 RPG
Malik Rose (Drexel) 1,514 rebounds in 120 games: 12.6 RPG
Ralph Sampson (Virginia) 1,511 rebounds in 132 games: 11.4 RPG
These are the top five rebounders (total rebounds) in the last forty years. As good as they were at cleaning the glass, they did not quite make the cut for the official list. Wow!
10. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (UCLA)
Lew Alcindor (later known as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) was one of, if not the greatest, college basketball players of all time. In his three years (1967-69) of varsity ball at UCLA, his Bruins won three consecutive NCAA championships.
He won the Final Four Most Outstanding Player three times and was selected as the National Player of the Year…you guessed it, three times.
Alcindor used his unique athleticism and length to control the boards on both ends of the court. He averaged 15.5 rebounds per game over his 88-game college career.
9. Robert Parish (Centenary)
Before Robert Parish put together a pro career accomplished enough that he was selected as one of the "50 Greatest Players in NBA History," he was a dominant though relatively obscure center at tiny Centenary (LA.) College.
Parish’s Wikipedia page states that “the Gents went 87-21 and spent 14 weeks in the AP Top 20 poll, mostly during his senior season in 1975-76.”
"The Chief" was a versatile big man who was deceptively mobile, and he used his quickness to gain an advantage over his opponents. He averaged 21.6 points and 16.9 rebounds per game over his 108-game career.
8. Elvin Hayes (Houston)
Elvin Hayes was one of the most prolific scorers and high-volume rebounders in college basketball history.
Playing for the University of Houston in the late 1960s, Hayes helped the Cougars become one of the best teams in the nation. His matchup against UCLA’s Lew Alcindor (later Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) in the "Game of the Century” cemented Hayes’ legacy as a legitimate superstar.
As a 6’9” forward, the “Big E” used his aggressive style to average a remarkable 31 points and 17.2 rebounds per game. Hayes was a shrewd offensive rebounder who seemingly always knew which angle missed shots were coming off the rim.
7. Marvin Barnes (Providence)
Marvin Barnes, known as “Bad News,” is undoubtedly the greatest player of all time at Providence College.
The Huffington Post’s Chris Tomasson had it right: "Bad News" Always Made Headlines. Sometimes it was for his on-court successes; other times it was for his off-court catastrophes.
Barnes led the nation in rebounding in 1974. He averaged 20.7 points and an eye-popping 17.9 rebounds over his 89-game college career.
6. Wilt Chamberlain (Kansas)
Wilt Chamberlain was one of the all-time best athletes of all college basketball big men. “The Big Dipper” was so much more than a towering post man who set up shop down low. He used his astonishing dexterity to dominate college basketball in his two years as a Kansas Jayhawk.
Chamberlain took over just about every one of the 48 collegiate games that he played in at KU, averaging 29.9 points and 18.3 rebounds.
5. Wes Unseld (Louisville)
At 6’7,” Wes Unseld was an undersized power forward/center. But his height didn’t limit his ability to pull down a crazy amount of caroms for the Louisville Cardinals.
In 82 career games, Unseld averaged 20.6 points and 18.9 rebounds per game.
Unseld was an expert at working to get perfect position and boxing out to grab rebounds. He was known for his lethal outlet passes that might hit a teammate in stride at half-court or beyond.
4. Tom Gola (La Salle)
La Salle’s Tom Gola was one of the best players in what could be considered the “early days” of college basketball. As a junior, he helped lead the Explorers to the 1954 NCAA national championship, where he was named the Tournament MVP. He was also the 1954 National Player of the Year.
A versatile and resourceful player, Gola used his athleticism to haul in an abundance of rebounds on both ends of the court. To this day, he is the NCAA all-time rebounding leader with 2,201 career boards, which comes to an exceptional 19.1 per game.
3. Dave DeBusschere (Detroit)
Dave Debusschere was an amazing two-sport athlete, excelling on both the basketball court and the baseball diamond. After his years at the University of Detroit, Debusschere pitched for the Chicago White Sox, but he also had an outstanding 12-year NBA career that ended up with him being named to the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History list.
As a 6’6” power forward, Debusschere played the game full out and physical. He grabbed 1,552 rebounds in his 80-game collegiate career, an average of 19.4 rebounds per game.
2. Paul Silas (Creighton)
Paul Silas had a very fine pro basketball career as both a player and coach. But before he was battling down low for the Suns, Celtics, Nuggets or SuperSonics, he had one of the single greatest rebounding games of all time. As a sophomore at Creighton, he grabbed 38 rebounds against Centenary on February 19, 1962.
This was only a snapshot from an amazing collegiate career. Silas averaged 20.5 points and an extraordinary 21.6 rebounds per game.
1. Bill Russell (San Francisco)
Before Bill Russell was an NBA legend, winning championships for the Boston Celtics, he was conquering the college basketball world at the University of San Francisco. Russell helped the Dons win back-to-back NCAA championships in 1955 and 1956.
He was a box-out specialist who was exceptional at anticipating where a missed shot was going and getting there to secure the rebound. In his 79 games at USF, Russell scored 20.7 points and grabbed 20.3 rebounds per game. He was one of the best defensive players and shot-blockers of all time.
But he was the best rebounder in college basketball history.