PHOENIX — Rebounding is a want to, a mentality that no one is going to out-hustle you or out-fight you for the basketball.
The Phoenix Suns have such a player in P.J. Tucker, who at 6-foot-6 trailed only the 7-foot-1 Alex Len in grabbing the most rebounds on the team this season at 6.4 a game.
Len averaged 6.6 to rank as the only Sun among the top 50 qualified rebounders in 2014-15.
“To me, to be a rebounder in the NBA, you have to be aggressive,” head coach Jeff Hornacek said. “You’re going to have to want it.”
Both Arkansas sophomore forward Bobby Portis and UCLA freshman forward Kevon Looney displayed that want to in college to become two of the better rebounders this season. Portis averaged 8.9, Looney 9.2 boards per game.
Both are pegged to be mid-to-late first-round picks and thus are options at No. 13 for the Suns, who had the two in for a pre-draft workout on Tuesday.
“When a guy’s got a knack (for rebounding) and they really go after it, I think it will translate (from college to the NBA),” Hornacek said. “I thought Bobby really went after rebounds today. He’s got long arms, he’s got strong hands. Kevon, when he goes for rebounds he’s got that length and those long arms.”
Portis and Looney joined a six-player group that included second-round hopefuls in Gonzaga guard Gary Bell, Notre Dame guard Pat Connaughton, Illinois guard Rayvonte Rice and Ohio State guard Shannon Scott.
All four are seniors.
In two seasons at Arkansas, Portis, listed at 6-foot-10 and 246 pounds, averaged 15.0 points and 7.9 rebounds in 70 games, all starts. In year two, his numbers improved to 17.5 points and 8.9 rebounds, good enough to be named SEC Player of the Year.
Portis is the first player in program history with 1,000 points and 500 rebounds as a sophomore.
“I’m a stretch 4. I can step out on pick-and-roll, pick-and-pop,” he said. “We played a 40-minutes-of-hell-type of game, up-and-down tempo, and that’s something that the Suns play as well, up-and-down tempo, just try to push the ball and get easy transition buckets.”
Hornacek said Portis showed well defensively during the workout, while his effort and knowledge of the game stood out.
Portis’ mid-range jumper is solid, but, like most college players, he needs to work on his 3-point shooting after attempting just 63 and making 23 in two seasons.
His passion for the game, he said, stems from a tough childhood growing up in Little Rock.
“Domestic violence, my Mom having to go through things like that,” he said. “For me, moving out of six, seven houses as a kid and not having a stable home until my 10th grade year. For any kid, that’s kind of tough. And the biggest thing, not having a dad. That kind of was tough on me because I would always go to the park and see my friends on the swings with their dads and they’re throwing footballs and I didn’t have anybody to throw me a football. That was kind of tough. As a young man that kind of made me grow up quicker than most kids have to grow up.”
Though not as big as Portis, Looney, 6-foot-9 and 222 pounds, is extremely athletic with great instincts.
At UCLA, he was always, it appeared, to be around the ball, aided by his 7-foot-1 wingspan.
Looney averaged 11.6 points while shooting 47.0 percent from the field and 41.5 percent from 3-point range, the highest percentage on the team.
His rebounding ranked second in the Pac-12.
“I got the gift to be good at that,” he said. “A lot of college rebounders that were good in college are good in the NBA like Kenneth Faried and Paul Millsap and guys like that. They transferred over to the NBA, so I think I can be one of those guys, too.”
The Suns were Looney’s second workout. He had visited Oklahoma City prior and was headed to Utah next.
A chance to be a first-round pick and perhaps even a lottery selection made Looney’s decision to leave school after only one year an easy one.
“I think I’ll be able to knock shots down at the next level,” he said. “I got to get a lot stronger, a lot more physical and improve on my defense more, but I think as the years come, I’ll be a good player.”