The 2021-22 men's basketball season is right around the corner and thanks to every player in the country having the option to return this season, if he wanted, there is returning veteran talent across the sport, including some of the best rebounders in the country from last season.
Here are the top nine returning DI men's basketball players in terms of rebounds per game last season.
1. Fardaws Aimaq, Utah Valley
Rebounds per game (2020-21): 15.0
Utah Valley went 11-11 last season, but the Wolverines, coach by former NBA journeyman Mark Madsen, were a productive rebounding team on both ends of the floor. Sophomore Fardaws Aimaq, 6-11, was a major reason why.
He led the country in at least one traditional and advanced rebounding metric, finishing the season at 15 rebounds per game, with a defensive rebounding percentage of 37.6, per kenpom.com. That means when Aimaq was on the floor and Utah Valley's opponent missed a shot, he grabbed the ensuing rebound more than a third of the time.
On the offensive end of the floor, he posted a 16.1 offensive rebounding percentage, which meant that when the Wolverines missed a shot when he was on the floor, he grabbed the offensive rebound roughly one time out of every six shots that Utah Valley missed.
As a freshman at Mercer during the 2018-19 season, Aimaq was mostly a reserve, starting just five games and playing just shy of 15 minutes per game, but he still averaged 5.3 rebounds per game. His per-40-minute numbers that season said he'd average 14.2 rebounds if he played all game, every game, and after transferring to Utah Valley and becoming a full-time starter last season, that number was realized, as he led the country in rebounding.
2. Jayveous McKinnis, Jackson State
Rebounds per game (2020-21): 13.2
McKinnis, a 6-7 forward/center, lives in the paint. He didn't attempt a single 3-pointer last season, he blocked 2.1 shots per game last season and his block rate of 6.8 percent (blocks divided by opponents' 2-point attempts when he was on the floor) ranked in the top 75 nationally, per kenpom.com.
But what's particularly impressive about the senior is his rebounding. He ranked second nationally in rebounds per game (13.2) last season and his defensive rebounding rate of 32.1 percent ranked fourth in the country. His offensive rebounding rate of 12.3 percent ranked 63rd nationally.
McKinnis had at least 10 rebounds in 13 of the 16 games he played in last season, including nine double-doubles.
He once had nine consecutive double-digit rebound games, including a season-high 19 rebounds in a win against Mississippi Valley State.
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3. Norchad Omier, Arkansas State
Rebounds per game (2020-21): 12.3
As a freshman, the 6-7, 230-pound Omier ranked in the top 10 nationally in both offensive (16.6 percent) and defensive rebounding percentage (33.8 percent), according to kenpom.com. He ranked second in the latter and sixth in the former. Within Sun Belt play, he ranked first in both metrics.
After grabbing just 11 combined rebounds in his first two games last season, Omier pulled down at least 10 rebounds in each of his next 12 games and 19 of the team's final 21 contests.
In Arkansas State's two conference tournament games, he had 18 rebounds in each game and his season-best of 20 rebounds came in a win against UT Arlington.
4. Dylan Painter, Delaware
Rebounds per game (2020-21): 11.5
Painter was a first-team All-CAA selection in 2021 after averaging career-highs in points (13.5 points per game), rebounds (11.5 rebounds per game), assists (1.9 assists per game) and blocks (1.1 blocks per game), but rebounding is arguably the best aspect of his game. His defensive rebounding percentage of 30.2 was the seventh-best nationally and his 13.7 offensive rebounding rate ranked 35th, per kenpom.com.
In conference play, he improved upon his season-long averages in both metrics, grabbing 32 percent of available defensive rebounds and 15.1 percent of available offensive rebounds, both of which ranked first in the CAA.
5. Josh Mballa, Buffalo
Rebounds per game (2020-21): 10.8
Mballa, who made NCAA.com's all-name team for the 2021-22 season, was a critical reason why the Bulls ranked sixth nationally in offensive rebound percentage (37.3 percent), per kenpom.com. While averaging a career-high 4.3 offensive rebounds per game, Mballa led the team in individual offensive rebounding percentage (14.7 percent), which ranked 22nd nationally, and his defensive rebounding rate (22.7 percent) also ranked first on the team and 115th nationally.
He had 20 rebounds in a MAC tournament win over Akron and he had a pair of 19-rebound games against Ball State and Miami (OH). His performance against Ball State featured 11 offensive rebounds. Mballa had eight double-doubles on the season.
6. Hayden Brown, The Citadel
Rebounds per game (2020-21): 10.5
Brown's rebounding average more than tripled from his injury-shortened junior season (3.3 rebounds per game) to his senior season (10.5 rebounds per game), as he averaged a double-double with 18.8 points per game. Brown's 27.3 defensive rebounding rate ranked 20th nationally, per kenpom.com, and his 7.1 offensive rebounding rate ranked third on the team among rotation players. He led the Southern Conference in defensive rebounding rate during conference play and he ranked ninth in offensive rebounding percentage.
7. Eral Penn, LIU
Rebounds per game (2020-21): 10.4
Penn had a breakout season as a redshirt junior at LIU, where he averaged 10.4 rebounds per game after pulling down just 4.5 per game as a sophomore. Granted, Penn's playing time increased significantly from 17.6 minutes per game to 31.1 per game, but his rebounding increased by larger margins than his playing time.
After having just two double-digit rebounding games in his first 61 games, Penn had 12 in 18 games last season, including a 33-point, 20-rebound game against Fairleigh Dickinson. LIU played at the eighth-fastest tempo on offense last season, per kenpom.com, which allowed the Sharks to maximize their offensive possessions. They ranked 34th in the country in offensive rebounding percentage as they grabbed 32.9 percent of their missed shots and Penn was by far their most prolific rebounder on offense, grabbing 12.4 percent of the team's missed shots when he was on the floor.
8. Eliel Nsoseme, Georgia State
Rebounds per game (2020-21): 10.1
Nsoseme started his college career at Cincinnati, where he played in 62 games off the bench over the course of two seasons. After transferring to Georgia State, where he became a regular starter, he averaged a double-double, with 11.7 points and 10.1 rebounds per game. His 202 rebounds last season were more than his freshman and sophomore-year totals combined (158).
Nsoseme ranked fifth nationally in offensive rebounding percentage (16.6 percent) and in the top 100 in defensive rebounding percentage (23.2 percent), making him the Panthers' most prolific rebounder on both ends of the floor.
9. Isaac Kante, LIU
Rebounds per game (2020-21): 10.1
LIU will have two of the top 20 rebounders in the country last season and two of the top nine returning rebounders as the Sharks return Eral Penn (10.4 rebounds per game), while adding Hofstra graduate transfer Isaac Kante. Kante, who started his college career at Georgia, transferred to Hofstra after his freshman season and he became a productive, full-time starter for two seasons. Last season, he averaged 12.9 points and 10.1 rebounds per game, ranking 28th nationally in defensive rebounding percentage (26.8 percent) and in the top 250 in offensive rebounding percentage (9.4 percent).
The 6-7, 240-pound senior will now finish his career at LIU.