By Grant Miller
Jake Digiorgio is the Scarlet Hawks’ leading rebounder because of his aggressive fundamentals, and Ebenezer Noonoo couldn’t be more proud.
Digiorgio averages 12 rebounds per game for the Illinois Institute of Technology, grabbing 33 percent of the team’s rebounds. The 6-foot-6, 210 lbs. freshman forward from Ironwood, Michigan played his best game against MacMurray College, recording 21 points and 19 rebounds.
Digiorgio named Dennis Rodman, a retired NBA forward who once averaged 19 rebounds per game for the Detroit Pistons, as one of his favorite basketball players. He also praised Kevin Garnett, who averaged 14 rebounds for the Minnesota Timberwolves during the 2003-2004 season, because of his intensity, a trait Digiorgio shares.
“I just want every ball,” Digiorgio said. “I want to make every ball mine.”
Noonoo, assistant coach for the Scarlet Hawks, works with the team’s forwards and often screams at Digiorgio from the bench whenever he misses a rebound. Despite his tough love approach, Noonoo said he is very proud of Digiorgio’s rebounding this season.
“It’s his aggression and willingness to get better,” Noonoo said. “You love that as a coach.”
Assistant coach Roy Ramos said Digiorgio has exceeded their expectations as a rebounder, and coach Todd Kelly also praised his aggression and strong fundamentals, especially how low Digiorgio gets during a box out. Kelly said he teaches his players to “sit on your man’s thigh,” and he said Digiorgio does that well.
After practice, Digiorgio broke down his box out technique into three steps.
First, he forearms his opponent’s chest to initiate contact and control the exchange.
Second, he sits on his opponent’s thigh to prevent him from jumping.
Third, he pushes his man away from the hoop to take him out of the paint. Even if Digiorgio doesn’t get the rebound, neither will his man.
Boxing out requires timing, footwork, and body positioning, so Noonoo teaches these fundamentals in practice with his towel drill.
The towel drill requires the player to hold a towel across the back of his neck, restricting the use of his hands and forcing him to use his body to push his opponent away from the hoop. If the player’s man gets the rebound, he must perform ten push-ups, and Digiorgio seldom loses.
Digiorgio said he is not satisfied with his performance so far and wants to improve until he leads both teams in rebounds after every game. When asked if he might catch a tip dunk this season, he smiled and said he would try.