Home Virginia can’t rebound the ball: Remember that great Darion Atkins quote? The answer is there
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Virginia can’t rebound the ball: Remember that great Darion Atkins quote? The answer is there

Chris Graham
uva basketball
Photo: UVA Athletics

Every so often, I have to dredge up the quote from former UVA big man Darion Atkins, on the eve of a 2015 NCAA Tournament matchup with Michigan State, which he opined was going to be a “d–k swinging contest.”

I’d say that I bet Tony Bennett hates it when I write these columns, but then, I doubt Tony Bennett could pick me out of a police lineup.

The quote from Atkins that I’m sure nobody on the staff likes seeing back in print after all these years comes to mind when I watch this year’s Virginia team, which ranks 329th (!) nationally in defensive-rebounding percentage.

The 2014-2015 ‘Hoos, anchored by Atkins, ranked fifth.

Laying the lumber, indeed.

That group had some dudes: in addition to Atkins (defensive rebound percentage in 2014-2015: 18.7%), there was 7-footer Mike Tobey (DR%: 21.6), future NBA players Anthony Gill (16.3%), Justin Anderson (14.4%) and Malcolm Brogdon (12.3%), and a freshman named Isaiah Wilkins (22.5%) who would go on to become the program’s glue guy for the next three years, and is now an assistant coach on Tony Bennett’s staff.

This year’s ‘Hoos have one guy who would fit in with the d–k swinging contest guys: 6’8” guard Ryan Dunn (defensive rebound percentage in 2023-2024: 21.3).

The next highest DR percentage among his teammates: 12.8.

That rate belongs to 6-foot backup point guard Dante Harris.


The tiny point guard.

The bigs, who should be your d–k swinging contest guys, don’t rebound as well as the guards, and this is a huge problem – and will only get worse as the schedule gets tougher, starting Wednesday with Texas A&M, which, incidentally, leads the nation in offensive-rebound percentage (46.2%).

Bennett, in the season’s first six games, went with a four-guard lineup, with Dunn at the four spot, around guys at the five – Blake Buchanan and Jake Groves – who simply haven’t been getting the job done on the boards.

Buchanan is averaging 2.2 defensive rebounds per game, which ranks fifth on the team through six games; Groves is averaging 1.7 defensive rebounds, which ranks eighth.

Buchanan is a true freshman who needs to get in the weight room so that opposing bigs can’t push him around; Groves is a stretch four (44.4% shooting from three) who is being asked to play five.

I proposed in a column last week that one solution to the rebounding issue could be sliding Dunn in the starting lineup from the four spot to the three, which pushes Isaac McKneely to the two guard spot beside Reece Beekman, then starting Groves at the four, alongside Buchanan at five.

The 3-4-5 spots would go 6’8”, 6’9” and 6’11” in that lineup.

At the least, that alignment gets the four and five guys the chance to box the bigs out so that Dunn and the guards can snag the rebounds.

My idea of the death lineup – the five that Bennett would use to close out close games – would be Beekman, McKneely, Leon Bond (3.8 rebounds/g in 15.7 minutes/g off the bench), Dunn and Buchanan.

Bond, a 6’5” guard in a linebacker’s body, seems to have some dawg in him, which this team needs in larger doses.

Bond is the closest guy this UVA team has to a Darion Atkins or Isaiah Wilkins.

Or a Jason Williford – remember him? He was the d–k swinging contest guy on the early 1990s teams that went to a Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight.

The solution to the d–k swinging contest problem for this team: more height on the floor all around, and more LB3 – 20 minutes-a-game-plus LB3.

Chris Graham

Chris Graham

Chris Graham is the founder and editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1994 alum of the University of Virginia, Chris is the author and co-author of seven books, including Poverty of Imagination, a memoir published in 2019, and Team of Destiny: Inside Virginia Basketball’s Run to the 2019 National Championship, and The Worst Wrestling Pay-Per-View Ever, published in 2018. For his commentaries on news, sports and politics, go to his YouTube page, or subscribe to his Street Knowledge podcast. Email Chris at [email protected].