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O’Grady: Boxing out is the key to winning

| Wednesday, March 23, 2016

After over a decade of watching me play (and warm the bench in) organized girls’ basketball, my dad is absolutely convinced the key to winning championships is simple: All you need to do is box out. In my now almost three years removed from the sport itself, watching my sister’s games, I realized he wasn’t wrong. I recognize this isn’t a hot take. It’s kind of like saying the one team needs to score more points than the other one. It’s reminiscent of Baylor’s Taurean Prince’s response to an interview question after their loss to Yale last weekend. The other team just needs to get more rebounds. However, it’s not that simple.

As hard as it is for me to admit my dad was right about something, boxing out is the key to getting more rebounds. Period. You can out-hustle, out-work, out-play the other team, but when it comes to the boards, it comes down to boxing out. You can be any size, shape, stature, athletic talent, etc., but if you can box out, you will get more rebounds. When it comes to rebounding, a 5-foot-5-inch, quick point guard can be equally as dangerous as a 7-foot, massive post player if they box out. As a 6-foot, formerly-lanky post player, I can attest to the fact that both these players are lethal under the rim. If they properly box out, you either end up fouling the point guard, who typically is a pretty decent shooter, or just giving the rebound to the taller player.

Rebounds directly translate to points, on both sides of the court. Defensively, a solid, well-positioned box out is getting a stop at the least or sending you to the charity stripe with some luck. Offensively, it creates a wide-open, easy shot. But it goes beyond that. By boxing out, the team benefits. You may not get the clear shot yourself, but it opens up a clear shot for a teammate. There is no downside, but moreover, the upside is so dramatically huge.

Save the “they just scored more points” theory: There is not one, time-proven way to win games. Bo Ryan came pretty close with his emphasis on rebounding (amongst other things) and his exemplary performance as the Wisconsin head coach — it’s hard to look at Ryan’s career and say it was anything less than impressive. He took what, as assistant managing editor Zach Klonsinski said was basically the sports department here at The Observer, plus one or two stand-out players, and always ranked in the top-four of the Big Ten, always made the tournament and consistently made it to the Sweet 16 and beyond. While that success could be accounted for by several things, rebounding deserves major credit. Ryan’s focus on rebounding is what differentiated the Badgers from other teams, and it’s what contributed to consistent postseason appearances.

Granted, I understand this doesn’t fix all problems. If you can rebound, that doesn’t mean you’ll make the next shot. But on a more practical level, it significantly improves your chances. Teams still need to shoot well and defend well, but this job can be so much easier if they simply rebound well. If they’re boxing out, they will rebound better and overall, their game will improve.

This isn’t the first time my dad has been right about something and it certainly won’t be the last, but I’m convinced after watching March Madness this weekend that boxing out, more than ever, leads to consistent victory. While he might not be able to coach a Division I men’s basketball team to a national championship — yet — boxing out could at least lead to a girls’ high school state championship.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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About Rachel O'Grady

Rachel O'Grady is a senior Political Science major living in Ryan Hall. She most recently served as Assistant Managing Editor. Hailing from Chicago (actual Chicago, not the suburbs) she's been a Cubs fan since birth.

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