Big men’s ability to block shots helps Colorado Mesa defense
Chandler Burgon and Colton Burgon used to try to draw offensive charges under the basket.
It didn’t seem to work. The Colorado Mesa University men’s basketball players were in constant foul trouble.
At least one of the 6-foot-8 Burgon brothers or 6-foot-7 Michael Bear fouled out in the first three games of the season, including an exhibition game against Southern Utah.
“At the beginning of the season, we tried to take charges,” Chandler Burgon said. “Coach (Jim) Heaps finally said to me and Colton, ‘You’re not charge-takers, you’re shot-blockers. You should try to block every single shot.’ That’s made a huge change at least for me and the fouls I get. I used to get five, now I’m down to two. That’s made a big difference.”
Since those first three games, none of the Mavs’ three big men have fouled out and they are blocking more shots. The Mavericks lead the RMAC with 4.4 blocked shots per game. They had eight blocked shots in a win against Western New Mexico.
“It’s huge, the number of shots they missed because we have good challenges against them,” Bear said of blocking shots. “Even if we don’t block them, with me and Chandler down there, we’re extremely hard to shoot over.”
Bear leads the RMAC in blocked shots with 1.6 per game. Colton Burgon is sixth with 1.3 per game and Chandler Burgon is averaging 0.9 per game.
With three players 6-7 or taller, they get a lot of practice challenging shots against each other.
“For us in practice, it makes us better,” Chandler Burgon said. “We go against two of the best shot blockers in the conference, it’s a whole lot easier to shoot shots in a game. If I can score against Colton or Mike Bear, I can score on anyone. It works on the other end, too. If I can block Colton or Mike, I can block anyone.”
The trio’s presence has made CMU one of the best defenses in the RMAC. The Mavericks are first in the RMAC and eighth in the nation in defensive field goal percentage (36.7 percent).
“We have a lot of kids that are conscientious on the defensive end,” Heaps said. “They want to play defense. The biggest factor we have going for us is our length and size. We’ve always got at least one 6-8 guy in the game. Our wings are big and long.
“Anytime you’re shooting over size, your shooting percentage is going to be lower. Our kids are going to challenge everything. There are no easy scores.”
Defensive field goal percentage is Heaps’ top priority and the Mavericks’ defense is doing its job well.
The opponents’ field goal percentage is the lowest in Heaps’ 16 seasons, he said.
“I don’t worry too much about points given up,” Heaps said. “We’re not going to force a lot of turnovers, we’re going to try to make them take tough shots. We try to limit second-chance points. We feel like if we’re doing those things, we’re doing our job.
“Because of our size, it’s hard to shoot over it. It’s hard to rebound and we have that defensive mindset. Probably overall, right now, it’s as good of a defensive team I’ve coached simply because of the size and mindset.”
Bear has developed into a good offensive player, second in the RMAC averaging 16.6 points per game, but he takes pride in playing good defense.
“I think too many people coming out of high school put too much emphasis on points per game or offensive statistics,” Bear said.
“The best thing you can do for your team doesn’t show up in statistics, like being there on help side and challenging shots. Those things are almost (as important) or more important than hitting jump shots.”