Earlier this week, I asked for Kansas questions on Twitter, and Patrick Shehan was one of the first to respond.
This is an obvious reference to 5-foot-11 Frank Mason, who often has been hailed as one of the best rebounders in the nation for his size. He even led KU in defensive rebounds through six games last season.
“When he’s got a free run at it,” KU coach Bill Self said at the time, “he can go get it with the best of them.”
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But is Mason one of the best in the country at this skill? Let’s take a look.
A few caveats: I will be looking at defensive rebounding rate, which determines what percent of a team’s defensive rebounds are pulled down by a player when he’s on the floor. I’m ignoring offensive rebounds, as Self asks his guards to get back defensively, so Mason is doing his job if he’s not going after those boards.
I’ll also be looking at players who are listed under 6 feet on their official rosters and guys who played at least 40 percent of their team’s minutes a year ago. Ken Pomeroy uses this as his leader-board qualifier, and I think it’s a good guideline to separate rotation players from benchwarmers.
Let’s start here: Mason is the best under-6-foot defensive rebounder in the Big 12. His 11.4 percent mark last season was easily better than the other three qualified players in the league.
That probably was expected, though. So how does Mason stack up nationally against the best “short” rebounders?
The KU guard ranks ninth out of 126 eligible players, which puts him around the 93rd percentile for guys his size. Looking at the chart, this also could have been a blog for colleague Tod Palmer, as Missouri’s Terrence Phillips tops the list after buying into his coaching staff’s rebounding emphasis.
Just for fun, here are the under-6-foot leaders in the Power Five conferences.
Add it all up, and Mason appears to be a top rebounder for his size, even if others have been better on a percentage basis.
This research also made me realize something else: Sub-6-foot players aren’t as common as I thought. Two conferences (CAA, Mountain West) had no under-6-foot guys who played more than 40 percent of their team’s minutes, while the Power Five schools combined for just 15 players with this criteria.
Roster spots are overwhelmingly being taken by taller players, though it’s important to note Self hasn’t been afraid to buck this trend. Mason, Sherron Collins, Jeff Hawkins and Naadir Tharpe all were listed below 6 feet, with each providing contributions that helped the Jayhawks extend their conference title streak.