LAFAYETTE — There’s a sign hanging in the Louisiana-Lafayette men’s basketball team’s Moncla practice facility locker room that encapsulates the attitude coach Bob Marlin wants his to instill in his team.
Marlin first saw the sign when he was a 10-year-old touring a college locker room. He got his own sign and made sure it has been visible in the locker room at each of his coaching stops.
“It says, ‘You can shoot too much, you can pass too much, you can dribble too much, but you can never rebound too much,’ ” Marlin said. “Securing possession of the ball is one of the best things you can do for your team.”
Rebounding, to Marlin, is all about energy, attitude and desire. Spearheaded by senior forward Shawn Long’s consistent excellence, the Cajuns have out-desired just about everybody on their schedule this season.
“It’s one of those things about the game: If you want it, go get it,” Long said. “Anybody can rebound the ball; you don’t really need to have a skill. … It’s more (about) will and want. There’s skills to it if you want to be a good rebounder, but it doesn’t take anything more than will.”
The Ragin’ Cajuns enter Saturday’s game against Texas-Arlington out-rebounding opponents by an average margin of 7.8 rebounds per game. As a team, they’ve only been out-rebounded twice this season. And, perhaps most importantly, more than 14 of their 41.7 rebounds per game come on the offensive end.
Their prowess on the offensive glass was evident in a demolition of Georgia State, when they hauled in 16 offensive rebounds compared to just four for the Panthers. That resulted in a 18-point advantage in second-chance points, accounting for the bulk of the Cajuns’ 33-point win.
“Offensive rebounds also result in positive things for your team and usually an easy shot,” Marlin said.
Long is the familiar face leading the charge off the glass. He’s averaging a career-high 12.7 rebounds. While Marlin said he has always been a great rebounder — evidenced by the fact that he has averaged better than 10 rebounds per game in each of his four seasons — he said Long’s greatest improvement has come on the offensive boards.
This season, Long is averaging a career high 4.3 offensive rebounds per game. He has hauled in 68 rebounds during the Cajuns’ five-game winning streak (13.6 per game), and 23 of them have come on offense, including a season-high eight offensive rebounds against Georgia State.
On Thursday against Texas State, Long spent the majority of the game out-rebounding the entire Bobcats team, but it’s his ability on the offensive boards that can demoralize an opponent.
“The game at Georgia Southern, late in the game — I think we’re going to win the game anyway — but we’re up six or seven, we shoot and miss and he gets the offensive rebound and tips it in right at the rim,” Marlin said. “He had two of those right at the end of the game that were just huge and breaks the other team’s back.”
Long is built like a premier rebounder, with a wide wingspan and solid leaping ability. But he said the physical attributes are not as important as the mental side of things.
“It goes back to will and want,” Long said. “I understand that I’m the best rebounder on the team, and that’s the thing that Coach relies on me the most to do. I take pride in it and try to do my best every night.”
Saturday’s game carries some big implications in the league standings: The Cajuns are a half-game ahead of the Mavericks and tied for second place with Arkansas State.