Kenneth Faried's body isn't completely covered with tattoos. He doesn't dye his air. He hasn't had any quickie marriages to celebrities.
But the Morehead State senior forward and the all-time leading rebounder in Division I history reminds Louisville coach Rick Pitino of Dennis Rodman.
"You don't see a Dennis Rodman come along anymore, a Dennis Rodman with a jump shot, because this man has a jump shot," Pitino said of Faried. "That's one of the highest compliments because I'm a big Rodman fan from my NBA days. A guy who gets around, never lets you catch the ball in the post, shot blocker, great defender, draws the charge, is the leading rebounder in the history of the game. Here is a young man who really understands where his bread is buttered."
Pitino's job is to find a way to neutralize Faried on Thursday morning when Louisville (25-9) and Morehead State (24-9) in the second round of the NCAA Tournament in Denver.
"I don't think we have anybody like him in college basketball because he rebounds with great quickness," Pitino said. "He's not an Oakley/Williams rebounder. He's a Rodman/Garnett rebounder. He rebounds with quickness and relentless pursuit. He has three techniques he uses to rebounding."
Faried, a senior forward, has a simple explanation for be able to rebound so well: "Pretty much want and desire. You've got to have that passion of wanting to pursue the ball, a desire to go get it and toughness."
It was Faried's mother who first gave him the motivation to become a strong rebounder. When he first started playing basketball as a youngster, Faried complained that he didn't many chances to score because his teammates preferred to shoot rather than pass. His mother told him to get the ball himself.
"She said, 'if they miss, you go rebound it and you put it back yourself,'" Farried said. "Don't worry about getting shots from them or passes from them, just get the ball yourself."
Faried has been a rebounding machine ever since. The 6'8", 235 pounder leads the nation this season with 14.5 a game as well as offensive rebounding percentage (20.1) and defensive rebounding percentage (30.6). He is also averaging 17.6 points, 2.4 blocked shots, 2.0 steals, 1.1 assists and 34.6 minutes.
Faried was selected as a second-team All-American by the United States Basketball Writers Association this week. That is an amazing feat for a player who rarely gets a chance to play on national television. Faried, though, did play well in a couple of losses to high-profile competition in November. He had 20 points and 18 rebounds against Florida then 15 and 12 two days later against Ohio State.
The Newark, N.J., native was not highly recruited in high school because he was rail-thin at 182 pounds, bench pressed just 205 pounds and was bothered by asthma. That scared off a lot of the bigger schools in the East and Faried landed at Morehead State, a fortunate happening for an Ohio Valley Conference program.
"The M.O. of our program is based on toughness and grit and playing hard," Morehead State coach Donnie Tyndall said. "He would get tired quickly, but, boy, when he was fresh, he had a great motor. He wasn't very skilled. To be perfectly honest, we thought he was a guy who maybe could start as a sophomore and be an all-conference guy his last couple of years. To say we expected him to do what he's done would be crazy."
However, Faried has gained 53 pounds since arriving at Morehead State, improved his bench press by 120 pounds and underwent nasal surgery to improve his breathing.
"He's probably the most receptive guy I've ever had in regards to coaching," Tyndall said. "He's improved dramatically. He's improved his strength and conditioning. With that same motor he had as a 17-year-old high school kid, it's allowed him to become the best rebounder in the history of college basketball and absolutely, positively no doubt we could not have projected what he is today."
Coaching Rumors Flying
Plenty of schools are looking for coaches, including Georgia Tech after firing Paul Hewitt. When Hewitt flirted with St. John's last year, Richmond's Chris Mooney was the Yellow Jackets' top target and he remains so this time. Mooney is also a candidate at North Carolina State, a situation that is looked upon unfavorably by many in the sport.
Fairfield coach Ed Cooley reportedly remains atop Providence's wish list, though former Boston College and Ohio State coach Jim O'Brien is a dark-horse candidate.
After being turned down by LSU's Trent Johnson, Utah now has its sights set on Saint Mary's Randy Bennett. Also, in the West, Minnesota Timberwolves assistant Reggie Theus and former Texas Tech coach Pat Knight are emerging as top candidates at Fresno State, which is likely to pursue Bruce Pearl if he is fired at Tennessee.
Northern Illinois is likely to hire Wisconsin assistant Greg Gard while Wyoming is closing in on a deal with St. John's assistant Mike Dunlap. Texas assistant Rodney Terry is in demand as he is being pursued by Bradley and Lamar.
With the NCAA Tournament past the First Four and heating up in earnest Thursday with 16 second-round games, our friends at TeamRankings.com have completed their computer analysis of the brackets and have unearthed these nuggets:
- No. 12 seed Utah State has a 55 percent chance of beating No. 5 seed Kansas State.
- No. 10 seed Michigan State has a 54 percent chance of beating No. 7 seed UCLA.
- No. 11 seed Gonzaga has a 40 percent change of beating No. 6 seed St. John's.
- No. 1 seed Kansas is a terrible pick to win the national championship.
- No. 2 seed North Carolina only has a 50 percent chance of getting to the Sweet 16.
- San Diego State is the most likely No. 2 seed to reach the Final Four.
Vucevic Headlines All-International Team
NetScouts Basketball has picked its All-International team and Nikola Vucevic of Southern California is the Most Valuable Player. The junior forward averaged 17.1 points, 10.3 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 1.4 blocks and 34.9 minutes this season.
Joining Vucevic on the first team are St. Bonaventure's Andrew Nicholson (Canada), Rice's Arsalan Kazemi (Iran), Saint Mary's Matt Dellavedova (Australia) and California's Jorge Gutierrez (Mexico). The second team consists of Texas' Tristan Thompson (Canada), Washington's Matthew Bryan-Amaning (England), American's Vlad Moldoveanu (Romania), Sam Houston State's Gilberto Clavell (Puerto Rico) and Vanderbilt's Jeffrey Taylor (Sweden).
John Perrotto is an author of Basketball Prospectus.
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