Nose for the ball

Brown among nation’s leaders in rebounds

Roydell Brown stands tall even in a land full of giants.

At least figuratively.

Brown ranks 12th in the nation in rebounds per game (10.8), a number which also leads the Southland Conference.

What’s more impressive is that he’s doing it at 6-foot-5. While not short by average standards, it’s on the shorter end for basketball players that make their living grabbing rebounds. In fact, there are four players ranked in the top 20 of the country who are 6-6 or shorter, and Brown is one of them.

"Just having a knack, knowing where the ball’s going to land at," Brown said when asked about his uncanny sense of rebounding. "Coach is really big on helping our big men rebound. Me growing up, I always felt good being able to rebound. It really goes to show you that it really don’t matter how tall or big you are. Just keep doing your job and ask what the coach needs."

The junior guard/forward is a New Orleans native who transferred to McNeese State after spending the 2017-18 season at Southwest Mississippi Junior College and the 2016-17 season at Louisiana-Lafayette. While in junior college, he averaged 9.2 rebounds per game.

In Brown’s first five games at McNeese, he’s recorded three double-doubles, including a 12-point, 13-rebound effort in the season opener at St. Mary’s.

His early season performance impressed Cowboys’ head coach Heath Schroyer, who said he wants to use Brown’s rebounding prowess even more to help get McNeese’s transition game going even more.

"It’s really impressive," Schroyer said. "I think that he has a great nose for the ball. I think that Roydell really understands what his strengths are. And the good thing about Roydell is that — and we need to capitalize this more — when he gets the defensive rebound, his ability to initiate the break and push the break, is something we’ve really worked on the last week or so in practice. He’s such a great defensive rebounder, that I think that him starting the break really allows us another opportunity to score."

If Brown is able to initiate the fast break more like Schroyer wants him to, he could see an uptick in his scoring and assist opportunities. Brown averages 9.6 points and 1.8 assists per game, both rank third on the team.

Schroyer trusts Brown, as evidenced by the 28.6 minutes per game he plays, which is second-most on the team. Right now, Brown said he’s welcoming the opportunity to do more because of his rebounding. He also said he believes that it will have an effect on how opposing teams can defend the Cowboys.

"Honestly, it really feels good being able to get the rebound and being able to push," Brown said. "It really makes teams to where they can’t really get back knowing that you have everybody that can really push the ball. It ain’t one player really bringing down the ball. Whoever gets the rebound, being able to push it, (and) start the offense up."

While Brown’s defensive rebounding numbers are impressive — he’s 13th in the country at 7.6 defensive rebounds per game — he has been steady on the offensive boards (3.2 per game). But the competition will take a big step up from the past three games, in which McNeese played a Division II and two NAIA schools. Brown, and his teammates, will have to deal with more length on the court, which could make it tougher when going up for rebounds.

In addition to the better competition, the team will be on the road for a three-game, six-day road trip.

If Brown is any indication, the team is excited to get on the road and try to get the Cowboys’ first win over a Division I team.

"We’re real excited," Brown said. "We’re trying to get our first road win. We’re really looking forward to coming and playing against these three teams."””<p>McNeese State’s Roydell Brown, No. 22, and No. 24 go up for the offensive rebound during their game at the new arena on campus in Lake Charles, La., Friday, Nov. 16, 2018. (Rick Hickman/Lake Charles American Press)</p>Rick Hickman