Improving Defensive Rebounding Will Be Top Of Todd Golden’s List

If there is one area that Todd Golden will be looking to improve Florida basketball in from day one, it’s rebounding.

Looking at some of the reasons why Florida wasn’t able to hit their ceiling over the last couple of years, a category that sticks out is defensive rebounding. Here is where the Gators ranked nationally in defensive rebounding over the last five years:

2018: 256th
2019: 313th
2020: 150th
2021: 275th
2022: 333rd

Struggling on the defensive glass hurts you in a number of ways. These second chance opportunities not only give opponents another chance to score, but often an immediate putback is available for an easy two points. An inability to secure defensive rebounds also hurts a team’s ability to get out and run, something that also has been an issue for Florida basketball. It also lengthens opponent possessions, and burns clock in situations you’re behind and need time to get back in the ball game.

When it comes to Golden looking to improve Florida’s defensive rebounding it isn’t just that he sees an area where the Gators were, frankly, terrible–it also is a statistical category of extreme importance to him. In Golden’s three years at San Francisco, when it came to defensive rebounding the Dons ranked as follows:

2020: 33rd
2021: 52nd
2022: 35th

For someone who has made defensive rebounding a priority, he’ll definitely be looking to change Florida’s course in that element of the game.

A lot of people see rebounding as simply effort, but there is a lot more to it–starting with what kind of shot you’re trying to rebound.

Not all shots are created equal, and some shots produce much more unpredictable rebounds than others–and when it comes to rebounding, unpredictable rebounds nearly always favor the offensive team over the defense team. The shots that produce the most unpredictable rebounds? Three–pointers.

Limiting opponent three-point attempts is the backbone of Todd Golden’s defensive strategy and while there are a number of benefits to this style, rebounding is one of them. Less three-point shots means less erratic rebounds, so it’s easy to draw a line between having success limiting three-pointers and having success on the defensive glass. We already looked at where Golden’s San Francisco teams were in defensive rebounding, so now let’s look at where they ranked in opponent three-point attempts:

2020: 9th
2021: 4th
2022: 16th

If there is something you can expect in regards to how Florida plays this season you can bet that the Gators will be running opponents off the three-point line and they will be much better on the defensive glass.

Basketball is a physical game, and having bigger, longer players on the floor certainly helps grab missed shots as well. While at San Francisco Todd Golden often played two traditional big men next to each other and while he likely won’t have the exact roster composition to do that right away at Florida he’ll have the opportunity to play a bit bigger than the did last season with many of the power forward minutes played by a 6’7” and thin Anthony Duruji and 6’5” wing Phlandrous Fleming. Alex Fudge brings NBA athleticism and length at 6’9”, and Will Richard has plus length at 6’5” and will be a positive rebounder from the wing. The Gators will (fingers crossed) also have a fully healthy CJ Felder and Jason Jitoboh for once which would be big for frontcourt depth and by extension, defensive rebounding.

When it comes to defensive rebounding the best metric to use is defensive rebounding percentage which is exactly what it sounds like–the percentage of available rebounds grabbed by a player on the defensive end.

A number you’d like to see every frontcourt player reach, at a minimum, is 15%.

Anthony Duruji had a 12.7% defensive rebounding percentage.

Phlandrous Fleming had a 11.1% defensive rebounding percentage.

This isn’t meant to single these two players out as they were far from the only reason the Gators struggled on the defensive glass, really it’s more pointing out that when you play intentionally small and have wings at the four, there are consequences and we saw it with Florida’s defensive rebounding.

Extend it out to the players who played most of their minutes at small forward and you’ve got Myreon Jones at 10.1%, Kowacie Reeves at 7.5%, and Niels Lane at 10.6%.

Will Florida get some help from the incoming transfers? Let’s take a look.

Alex Fudge had a defensive rebounding percentage of 14.4%, and he played most of his minutes at the three next to Tari Eason and Darius Days who ate up a lot of the available rebounds. For someone at the three a 14.4% defensive percentage is a definite positive, and when he’s at the four with more available rebounds you hope that number will climb a bit.

Will Richard was a sneakily very good rebounder for his size and had a defensive rebounding percentage of 18.4%. With him likely playing most of his minutes at the wing, he’ll be a huge boost to Florida’s defensive rebounding ability.

Another sneaky boost to Florida’s defensive rebounding could be the smallest player on the roster–VMI’s Trey Bonham. He might stand at only 6’0” but he’s tough as nails and loves to get into the paint and compete on the glass, and he had a defensive rebounding percentage of 13.8% which is excellent for a point guard. For example, Tyree Appleby’s defensive rebounding percentage was 9.1% and Kyle Lofton’s was 8.6%. Bonham has a nose for the ball and the desire to go and get it, and last season he had 5 or more defensive rebounds 9 times.

Whether it be Todd Golden’s defensive philosophy, his lineup decisions, or the new players added to Florida’s roster the Gators will almost certainly be a much improved defensive rebounding team this year. Playing in an SEC loaded with athletes and teams that love to crash the glass, Florida needs to improve in this area if they want to reach their goals, and it looks like the building blocks are in place to make that happen.

Eric Fawcett
Eric is a basketball coach and writer from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. His work has been found at NBA international properties, ESPN, Bleacher Report, CBS Sports, Lindy's and others. He loves zone defenses, the extra pass, and a 30 second shot clock. Growing up in Canada, an American channel showing SEC basketball games was his first exposure to Gator hoops, and he has been hooked ever since. You can follow him on Twitter at @ericfawcett_.