Rebounding Essentials

By Hal Wissel

Unlike most fundamentals that contribute to basketball success, effective rebounding requires at least as much toughness as it does technique. Being a good rebounder involves emotional and mental factors in addition to physical skills.


Desire. Wanting the ball is the most important factor in rebounding. Assume that every shot will be missed, and develop the attitude that you will go after every rebound. Because many rebounds are not obtained by the first player to touch the ball, second effort is truly needed. The difference between good and great rebounders is that the great ones go after more rebounds.

Courage. The physical contact of rebounding demands courage. Your greatness as a rebounder can be measured by the amount of physical contact you can take. To be a great rebounder, you must be eager to get into the battle of the boards. There is often no glory in rebounding, just victory. Wes Unseld was a player whom few opponents challenged, not only becauseof his tree trunk torso, but even more so because of his determination and will to dominate the boards. Unseld is still widely regarded as one of the best outlet passers ever to play the game.

Anticipation. Check the rims, backboards, and bracing to determine how hard or soft the ball will rebound. Know your teammates’ shooting techniques and study your opponents’ shooting to anticipate where shots will rebound. Observe the angle and distance of shots: Most shots rebound to the opposite side, and three-point shot attempts tend to rebound longer. Among current NBA rebounders, Kevin Love demonstrates a keen understanding of where a player’s shot is most likely to carom off the rim—and how to get to that spot before anyone else. In a December 20, 2010, Sports Illustrated article by Lee Jenkins, Love said, “A different sense knocks into me when the ball is in the air. I know where it will hit and where it will land. I’m playing percentages, but it’s not a guessing game. Most of the time I’m right.” Knowledge. Use your experience of playing and practicing with teammates to your advantage. Pay attention to scouting reports and examine the players you are likely to match up against. Assess their height, strength, jumping ability, quickness, aggressiveness, blockout technique, and second-effort tendencies. Also, study
other great rebounders. You’ll be amazed at how much you’ll learn.


Quickness. Move! On offense, move quickly around your opponent and go for the ball. On defense, move quickly to block out your opponent and then go for the ball. Watch videos of yourself to
identify any wasted movements and practice maneuvers that will allow you to get to the ball more effectively.

Strength. A well-conceived conditioning program will improve your total body strength so you can withstand the body contact under the boards. Legs and hips must provide a solid base, and wrists and hands should be like a vise gripping the ball.

Muscular endurance. Improve muscular endurance in your legs: You want to improve not just how high you jump but also how often you jump. Dennis Rodman had an all-time high 23.4 percent rebounding rate for his career—meaning he claimed more than one of every four missed shots while on the court. Rodman was like a pogo stick, seemingly indefatigable as he bounded repeatedly until gaining possession of the ball.

Height. You cannot change how tall you are or how long your arms are, but you can control all the other qualities that determine your success as a rebounder.


Vision. Use peripheral vision to see the total picture, including the ball and your opponent. When you play defense, after the shot, you should watch your opponent, block out, and go for the ball. When you play offense, after the shot, you should determine how your opponent blocks out, use the correct method to get by the blockout, and go for the ball. Paul Silas, one of the greatest rebounders of all time, averaged 21.6 rebounds a game during his 3-year career at Creighton University. He was both an artist and a technician on the boards. Although barely 6-7 and a mediocre leaper, Silas’ well-crafted skills and dedication to his role allowed him to capture more than a rebound every three minutes throughout his 16-year NBA career.

Position. Anticipate your opponent’s move and work to establish inside position.

Hands up. Move both hands to a position above your forehead, placing your hands ball-width apart. When gaining possession of the rebound, catch the ball with two hands and aggressively protect it in front of your forehead and away from your opponent.

Timing. Time your jump to reach the ball at the maximum height of your jump.

Balance. Maintain a balanced stance to counter any physical play such as bumping, shoving, and pushing. Be on the balls of your feet, with your feet shoulder-width apart, your knees flexed, your back straight, your head up, and your hands above your shoulders. Also, after claiming the ball, land in a balanced stance. On offense, be ready to score with a power move or to pass out to a teammate. On defense, be ready to pivot and use a quick outlet pass to start a fast break.

Jumping ability. Work continually to improve your jumping height and the quickness and explosiveness of your jump. A quick second jump is a great asset for rebounding. Off-season plyometric training is a great way to develop the powerful, repetitive jumping ability needed to be a real force on the boards.

Jumping often. In rebounding, it is not how high but how often you jump that is crucial for success.

Defensive Rebounding

The key to defensive rebounding is getting inside position on your opponent and going for the ball. When playing defense, you usually have the inside position between your opponent and the basket, giving you the early advantage in the ensuing battle for the rebound. Coaches teach two strategies for defensive rebounding. The most commonly used philosophy is to block out (often called box out) the opponent. Blocking out involves first blocking your opponent’s path to the ball by putting your back to your opponent’s chest and then going for the ball. The other philosophy, espoused by John Wooden (the great UCLA coach of 10 NCAA championship teams), is simply to step in your opponent’s path and go for the ball. Wooden’s method, called the check-and-go, might be best when your quickness and leaping ability are much superior to your opponent’s. Blocking out is recommended for most players. Players use two methods for blocking out: the front turn and the reverse turn. Putting your back on your opponent’s chest and going for the ball are more important than which blockout method you use.

Front Turn.The front turn method is best for blocking out the shooter. Be in a defensive stance with your hand up. Once the shot is taken, front pivot on your back foot, aggressively step forward toward the shooter, and block out. Use a wide base for balance. Keep your back on your opponent’s chest and keep your hands up. Be physically and mentally strong to resist the force of your opponent trying to go by
you. Go for the ball and catch it with two hands. Land in balance. Protect the ball in
front of your forehead.

Reverse Turn. The reverse turn is best when you are defending a player without the ball. When guarding a player without the ball, take a defensive stance that allows you to see the ball and your opponent.
To guard a player on the ball side of the basket (also called the strong side), take a denial stance with one hand up and one foot in the passing lane. To guard a player on the opposite side of the basket (called the help side or weak side), take a defensive stance several steps away that allows you to see the ball and the player you are guarding. When you defend a player off the ball and a shot is taken, first observe your opponent’s cut and then make a reverse turn, dropping your foot back away from your opponent’s cut. Block out and get the rebound. Develop the attitude that you are going to go after every ball. Always try to catch the ball with two hands, but if you cannot make a two-hand catch, use one hand to try to keep it alive until you or a teammate can grab it.

Offensive Rebounding

The key to offensive rebounding is to move. Develop the attitude and will to move and go after every ball. Move to outmaneuver the defender, who is usually between you and the basket. Make a quick, aggressive move to get past the defender and jump to get the ball, always trying to catch it with two hands. If you cannot catch the ball with two hands, use one hand to try to tip the ball into the basket or keep it alive until you or a teammate can grab it. To avoid being blocked out, keep moving. If you are blocked out, use every effort to get around the block out. Even great rebounders get blocked out, but they keep moving to outmaneuver the opponent. It is not a mistake to be blocked out, but it is a mistake to stay blocked out. Four methods of moving past the blockout are the straight cut, the fake-and-go,the spin, and the step back.

Straight Cut. Use the straight cut when your opponent blocks you out with a front turn. Quickly cut by before the block out can be set. Keep your hands up, ball-width apart. Go for the ball and catch it with two hands. Land in balance and protect the ball in front of your forehead.

Fake-and-Go. Use the fake-and-go when your opponent blocks you out with a reverse turn. Fake in the direction of your opponent’s reverse step and then cut by the opposite side. Keep your hands up, ball-width apart. Go for the ball and catch it with two hands. Land in balance and protect the ball in front of your forehead.

Spin. Use the spin when your opponent blocks you out and holds your body or arm. Place your forearm on your opponent’s back, reverse pivot on your lead foot, hook your arm over your opponent’s arm for leverage, and cut by. Keep your hands up, ball-width apart. Go for the ball and catch it with two hands. Land in balance and protect the ball in front of your forehead.

Step Back. Use the step back when your opponent leans back on you while blocking out. Simply step back so your opponent loses balance and falls back, then cut by. Keep your hands up, ball-width apart. Go for the ball and catch it with two hands. Land in balance and protect the ball in front of your forehead.

Edited From: Wissel, H. (2011). Basketball: Steps to Success, Third Edition. Human Kinetics. Champaign, IL. Available at: