Northern Colorado rebounding leader transferred in, making large impact
Rebounding tends not to be a glamorous aspect of the game of basketball as its purpose is simply to gain possession of the ball. With a big grin, though, transfer junior forward Derrick Barden has brought his own spotlight all the way from Odessa, Texas, through hard work, athleticism and a quiet confidence.
The transfer from Odessa Junior College sits third among Big Sky rebounders at 8.6 boards per game, just 16 games into his UNC career, as he continues to jell with teammates. Watching them shoot baskets and studying the angle of the ball's bounce is one way Barden has been able to achieve success on the glass.
"Sometimes I just sit down and watch my teammates shoot and see where the ball hits the rim and bounces off so I can get a better way to go get the rebound," he said. "No tricks, just natural."
The new big man on campus is actually undersized as a power forward at 6'5". Head coach B.J. Hill said Barden makes up that margin in size through other means.
"He's got very long arms and he's got great timing," Hill said. "What Derrick has, you can't coach. He's got an innate ability to just search the ball out and chase it. Very explosive, a fast-twitch guy, a quick leaper and all of those things combine to create a heck of a rebounder."
The attribute that most observers notice about Barden, though, is his extreme drive on the court, including selling out to pull down a rebound, oftentimes hitting the deck.
He picked himself up off the hardwood countless times in Saturday night's win against Eastern Washington, gathering 15 boards in the process.
Sophomore forward Bryce Douvier says Barden's hard work is a large contributor to the respect he's already garnered among his teammates.
"The way he's just come in and worked, I think, is the biggest thing," Douvier said. "He works every day, and he's always working hard, so when people work hard, you respect them."
Barden tells the story of his recruitment to the University of Northern Colorado often and with pride. When his trip to Greeley was canceled due to plane trouble, Hill made the trip to Odessa, showing Barden how committed he was to bringing in the glass-chewing forward.
Hill said Barden's recognition of that commitment proves he is the kind of person the Bears want around.
"When you tell them that they're going to be a priority, you just want them to notice the things that you do," he said. "So when you come across a kid who actually does see that and appreciate it, it makes you know you're recruiting the right kind of kid for your program."
Even with his early success, Barden has stayed humble, focusing on facets of his game that need improvement.
"I need to work on my defense, work on my ball screening and getting guards open, my shooting and ball handling, and that's it," he said.
He states the issues in a matter-of-fact way that suggests he's serious about improving and committed to winning.
With that attitude, Barden increases his odds of doing both.
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