Five for ’21: Ranking The Mountain West’s Top Five Rebounders
Predicting the top five Mountain West rebounders for the ’20-21 season
Who are the top rebounders in the MW?
In the final installment of Mountain West Wire’s offseason series, Five for ’21, we turn to the league’s best glass-cleaners.
As a reminder, the Five For ’21 series features our ranking of the top five Mountain West players in five different skill sets: passing, scoring, defending, rebounding, and shot blocking. The full Five For ’21 series schedule is below, including links to this week’s previous articles from Larry Muniz (@hardwoodtalk) and myself (@andrewdieckhoff).
Today’s list will borrow heavily from the Wednesday’s group of highlighted shot-blockers (for reasons that should be obvious), but a few fresh faces have been thrown in the mix as well. With those pleasantries out of the way, our final shortlist begins with its shortest player.
(NOTE: Statistics below taken from Sports-Reference.com. Percentages following per-game rebounding averages refer to rebounding rate in the respective category.)
5) David Roddy, Colorado State
- Height/Weight: 6’5″, 250 lbs.
- 2019-20 Stats: 5.6 RPG (12.8%), 3.9 DRPG (17.4%), 1.7 ORPG (8.0%)
OK, so while Roddy may not be as tall as any of his peers on this list, at 6’5″ and 250 pounds, he’s built like an NFL linebacker and has the toughness to match. Depending on the source, the Minneapolis native might be listed as a guard, a guard/forward, a wing, a wing forward, or a power forward. No matter what you call him, though, David Roddy brings a grittiness to the floor that few in the league can match.
His raw rebounding stats don’t exactly jump off the page, but consider this: Roddy ranked 12th in the Mountain West in rebound rate on both the offensive and defensive end of the court as freshman, and a handful of the players who finished ahead of him have either graduated or transferred out of the league. Among those departures is former teammate Nico Carvacho, the Mountain West’s career rebound leader. And while promising Rams sophomore Dischon Thomas is the likely beneficiary of most of those unclaimed boards now that Carvacho isn’t around, Roddy could also see a healthy uptick in his numbers.
It is entirely possible that Roddy finishes outside of the Top 10 in rebounding again this season, but his ability to bang around inside and get rebounds despite his height disadvantage was an important factor in Colorado State’s success last year. With the torch now officially passed to the Rams’ young roster, Roddy has a chance to make an even bigger impact this season. There may be some more traditional Goliaths in the league who will grab more rebounds, but I’m giving the nod to David here in the 5-spot.
4) Neemias Queta, Utah State
- Height/Weight: 7’0″, 245 lbs.
- 2019-20 Stats: 7.8 RPG (16.3%), 5.8 DRPG (22.9%), 2.0 ORPG (8.9%)
While Queta finished at #2 in our Five for ’21 shot-blockers list, the junior slips a bit lower when it comes to rebounding. As discussed in Wednesday’s piece, Queta’s numbers took a hit following the knee injury he suffered during FIBA play prior to the 2019-20 season. He eventually regained his form, though, and he is surely deserving of being included in this list.
Queta finished fifth in the Mountain West in defensive rebound rate last season, nabbing nearly a quarter of the available boards on that end of the floor. But his sophomore rebounding rates on both ends of the court were two percentage points lower than in his freshman campaign. Of course, it should be noted that there are a multitude of possible reasons that his numbers may have declined that don’t have to do with his injury — one of those reasons appears later in this list — and the kind of drop we are talking about is akin to falling from an A to an A-minus.
With Sam Merrill, Diogo Brito, and Abel Porter gone, it remains to be seen just how large a role Queta will occupy in the Aggie offense next season. If he is being relied upon to take more and more shots, it could cut into his rebounding numbers to some degree. That said, the smart money is on Queta in most of the one-on-one rebounding battles that the Mountain West has to offer.
3) Cheikh Mbacke Diong, UNLV
- Height/Weight: 6’11 lbs, 230 lbs.
- 2019-20: 7.9 RPG (17.8%), 4.9 DRPG (22.6%), 3.0 ORPG (13.2%)
Another recycled entry from the shot-blockers list, Diong has turned himself into one of the league’s best defensive big men, even if his scoring hasn’t quite caught up yet. His prowess for bullying others around in the paint is exactly the type of player that coach TJ Otzelberger needs in support of a talented group of scorers including Bryce Hamilton and David Jenkins Jr. For his part, Diong does precisely what is required of him.
As far as the numbers go, Diong finished his junior year as one of only five qualifying players to finish with a defensive rebound rate over 20% and an offensive rebound rate over 10% (min. 40% minutes played). Three of those players have since graduated, and the other one shows up later in this list, so Diong should fall among the league’s Top 5 rebounders almost by default.
With the sharp-shooting Jenkins taking over for Amauri Hardy in the offense, there may be slightly fewer rebounds available for Diong on the offensive end this year, but you can be sure that he’ll be ready to catch anything that comes off the rim. While his game isn’t likely to generate much content for the SportsCenter Top 10, Diong’s dedication to rebounding and defense will be critical to the Rebels’ success in year two of Coach TJ.
2) Nathan Mensah, San Diego State
- Height/Weight: 6’10”, 220 lbs.
- 2019-20: 6.8 RPG (20.2%), 4.8 DRPG (27.2%), 2.1 ORPG (12.8%)
On Wednesday, I detailed the what-ifs surrounding Nathan Mensah, whose 2019-20 season was lost months before it was taken from the rest of us due to a pulmonary embolism. But in the 13 games he did play last year, Mensah showed off some pretty eye-catching rebounding numbers. He was not quite at the level of departed Mountain West compatriots Nico Carvacho and RJ Williams, but the Ghanaian showed that he belongs in any conversation about the league’s best big men.
Because Mensah’s season was cut short, he didn’t qualify for the year-end statistical races. Had he maintained his rates over the full season, though, he would’ve been among the Mountain West’s best half-dozen rebounders. He also would’ve ended up in that prestigious 20/10 club noted above. Keep in mind that Mensah was only playing 20 minutes per game before his injury, and doing so in a very slow-paced offense, so his per-game averages are really not indicative of his skill on the boards.
Assuming Mensah is willing and able to return to the Aztecs when the next season begins, he has a very good chance to finish atop the Mountain West in both offensive and defensive rebounding rates. The main reason he doesn’t finish #1 in this list is because the player ahead of him posted very similar numbers — despite being three inches shorter than Mensah. In reality, it’s probably more of a 1A/1B situation, but now we’re just splitting hairs.
1) Justin Bean, Utah State
- Height/Weight: 6’7″, 210 lbs.
- 2019-20: 10.5 RPG (19.8%), 6.9 DRPG (24.6%), 3.6 ORPG (14.3%)
Despite being on a Utah State team with a program all-timer in Sam Merrill and an exciting NBA prospect in Neemias Queta, Bean managed to carve out some good publicity for himself with a breakout sophomore campaign. As a freshman walk-on, Bean averaged 12 minutes per game and did not register a single start. He was effective in those limited minutes, both in terms of scoring and rebounding, which not only earned him a scholarship, but also a starting role in Craig Smith’s rotation.
In case you hadn’t yet put it together, Bean is the mystery man I alluded to earlier when discussing the 20/10 club for defensive and offensive rebounding rates. To be clear, including the Oklahoman in this list is not just some act of charity for the “little” guy. Bean’s numbers put him squarely among the league’s best rebounders, regardless of height. But while we’re on that subject, don’t forget that at various times the 6’7″ forward was competing for rebounds against three seven-footers on his own team: Queta, Kuba Karwowski (7’2″), and Trevin Dorius (7’0″).
Bean will enter his junior year at Utah State with much more weight on his shoulders than either of the previous two seasons, as the program moves on from the Merrill/Porter/Brito trio that played such a huge part in the Aggies’ recent success. But fans in Logan shouldn’t fret too much, as the best pound-for-pound rebounder in the Mountain West will still be cleaning the glass in Smith Spectrum.
Also considered (in alphabetical order): Mladen Armus, Boise State; Aguek Arop, San Diego State; K.J. Hymes, Nevada; Orlando Robinson, Fresno State; Robby Robinson, Nevada; Dischon Thomas, Colorado State.
Andrew Dieckhoff is a current USBWA member covering college basketball for Mountain West Wire. He also runs the Dieckhoff Power Index, a website dedicated to his college basketball ratings system and bracketology projections.