Rob Little: Making His Presence Felt
March 18, 2003
Playing in the paint can be like entering a combat zone. Players are leaping to block shots, muscling for scoring position and battling for rebounds. Though just a sophomore, Stanford center Rob Little has quickly adjusted to his role as the Cardinal's big man in the middle, and this year has made his presence felt under the hoop on both sides of the court.
'I think that I have stepped up to the challenge of starting at center in the Pac-10,' said the 6-10, 275 pound sophomore out of Hampton, Virginia. During the off season, Little worked out extremely hard to increase his muscle mass and endurance in order to compete with the athletic and aggressive centers in the conference. Little's numbers indicate the payoff of these efforts.
In his 2001-02 rookie campaign, Little averaged 2.4 points and 2.2 rebounds in 8.8 minute per game. This year, the sophomore center has boosted these numbers to 8.9 points and 5.8 rebounds in 22 minutes per contest. 'A lot of my success comes and goes with the amount of time I spend in the game,' said the center. 'Though sometimes it has been rough in terms of foul trouble.' When in the game, Little makes his size and strength felt on both sides of the ball.
'I really need to be in there for a ten minute span,' said the sophomore. 'Then I can start grabbing offensive rebounds, because that's where I see the real gravy of scoring for big men, on put backs.' In addition to put backs, Little has developed a sweet hook shot from the blocks and is improving his touch from short distance. The sophomore's performance against the top-ranked Arizona Wildcats in the desert (1/30) was indicative of his solid play this season.
In 29 minutes, Little grabbed 9 boards and netted 13 points on 6-of-10 shooting, including two huge inside baskets in the closing minutes of the game to reverse the momentum after a huge 20-3 Arizona run. The center's two buckets put the Cardinal up 75-71 with just over three minutes to play, setting up a memorable come-from-behind upset victory. 'I got the ball on two consecutive possessions. It was totally random,' commented Little. 'I happened to be open, and I ducked my guy and hit those two shots.'
On the defensive side of the ball, Little's size has been menacing for opponents that try to drive the lane. 'When a guy has to shoot over my 6'10' frame that grows to 7'6' when my arms are stretched out, it is hard for people to get shots,' said the big man. By redirecting drives and shots, the sophomore has forced the opposing team to think twice before entering the paint. 'A lot of times I just have the mind set that I don't want anyone to make a lay up on me,' said the sophomore. 'I feel that this presence needs to be made down low.' Little's 22 blocks and multiple charges taken speak true to the presence that he brings to the Cardinal's interior defense.
In addition to making waves on offense and defense, Little also plays a vocal leadership role on and off of the court. 'I'm not a quiet player,' said the center. When a timeout is called and the sophomore is on the bench, he is one of the first up to congratulate and encourage his teammates. Furthermore, during a stop in play on the court, often times Little initiates a quick huddle to motivate the team. 'Anytime I see that we are slacking on defense or can do something better, I say something like, 'come on man, you need to get on the floor for the ball,' or 'you need to take that charge.' It is a way to make us all play more aggressively and as a unit.'
Up to this point, Little has been very pleased with the Cardinal's 19-6 record, including big wins against Florida (11/27), Oregon (1/11), and Arizona (1/30). 'The fact that we take pride in each other and pride in our game and the fun that we are having has been reflected in the big wins that we have had,' said Little. With the sophomore center's presence in the middle, the Cardinal hopes to build more momentum this week as it moves into post season play.