Matt Faber, a senior starting forward for the offensive powerhouse La Cañada High boys' basketball team, doesn't care about finishing the game with the most points — he'd much rather have the most rebounds when he walks off the court.
Faber's been a beast on the boards this season. He currently leads the Spartans, and the entire Rio Hondo League, in rebounding, as he's pulled down 236 boards in the regular season – 120 more than teammate Sean Mintie's 116, the team's second-highest rebound number.
The way he's accepted his role has allowed his team to excel this season. His rebounds have provided balance and second opportunities for La Cañada's high-powered offense.
"For me, getting rebounds is more important than having the most points because without the rebounds, the other team has more chances to score, and it's a lot more difficult to win that way. I'm fine with letting Mike [McGlashan] or Dario [CiVon] carry the team in scoring," said Faber, a 17-year-old.
Although rebounding is important, the only thing that matters more to Faber is that the Spartans come out on top, and he'll do whatever he needs to do to make that happen.
La Cañada Coach Tom Hofman said Faber, and his rebounding prowess, have been critical to the Spartan's success this season. The team went 10-0 to capture the Rio Hondo League championship, finished the regular season with a 23-3 overall record and earned the third seed in the CIF Southern Section Division III-AA playoffs.
"I put [Faber] in the top three rebounders I've ever coached," Hofman said. "To be a good team, you need to be a good defensive and rebounding team — offense is third. When he goes out of the game, our production goes way down."
Faber said he's always had jumping ability, but thinks his fundamentals are what give him an edge on the boards, even against taller opponents.
"I try to box out and get position before I go up," said Faber, who played football and tennis for the Spartans last season and will tackle volleyball in the spring. "A lot of the times I'll see where the ball is going before it actually comes up [off the rim] and I can beat the other guy to the spot."
Hofman wants to see Faber keep rebounding in the playoffs, but wouldn't mind him looking for more scoring opportunities of his own.
"We want the whole team to start scoring more. We've been so dependent on Mikey [McGlashan] and Dario [CiVon] to score points that we're trying to get more production from everyone. [Faber] is definitely one of the people who could be getting more points for us," Hofman said.
There is a lot more to Faber than rebounding. His 9.1 rebounds a game and 20 blocks this season are team bests. His averages of 9.1 points and 2.2 assists a game are the third-highest for La Cañada. His 1.3 steals a game is the second-highest average for the Spartans.
Faber feels comfortable attacking the basket when he gets the ball down low in a good position, but he's been working on adding another dimension to his offense.
"I've been working on my three [-pointer] again," said Faber, who spent time working on his long-range game over the summer, but lost confidence in it after spending the spring season dedicated to football. "I think I'm in a pretty good position to shoot now."
Still, Hofman doesn't want Faber to force anything, but instead just keep doing what he's been doing. He has seven double-doubles already this season.
"[Scoring] should come naturally, but him looking for more opportunities to score will be a good thing for us," Hofman said. "We need to be a good, balanced team, with everyone playing their role, and he definitely has one of the biggest roles on the team."
The good news for La Cañada is that Faber has been peaking at the right time, averaging a double-double — 11.2 points and 12.3 rebounds — the last six games.
As the Spartan's tallest starter, at 6 feet 5 and 195 pounds, Faber is called upon to guard the opposition's biggest man for most of the game. It can be a tall task when an opposing center towers over him and he knows he'll most likely be called upon to do it more in the playoffs.
"Basically, I just try to keep them from making their move long enough to get help from my other teammates because one-on-one, they can just body-me up," Faber said. "It's really just fighting him for position long enough to get help."
Still, Faber likes the way La Cañada has been playing lately, blowing out their last four opponents by an average of 38.8 points. He's confident the Spartans will match up against playoff opposition as well.
"I think we're much more balanced this year," Faber said. "I think we could go all the way, and the way we're playing right now, we're getting better each game, so if we keep that up, we'll go far."