Richmond-Burton forward Danny Rygiel occasionally chirps at other players about his prowess on the basketball floor.
But there is nothing unsportsmanlike about Rygiel’s trash-talking. It’s directed toward his own teammates because he leads the Rockets in scoring.
Rygiel is far from leading R-B in points. In fact, the other four starters – Sam Kaufman, Mike Kaska, Joey St. Pierre and Brian Wells – all average more points a game than Rygiel. Rockets coach Brandon Creason prefers another kind of scoring to judge how players are contributing to the team.
R-B grades players each game with a plus/minus scoring system that adds or subtracts points in 14 statistical categories. Rockets assistant coach Brent Mansky approached Creason about the possiblity of using plus/minus four years ago. Once he showed Creason what it’s about, the head coach was on board. The system for basketball is similar to what sabermetrics is to baseball.
“Do you help or hurt us on the floor?” Creason said, describing the gist of plus/minus. “What do you do for us? Danny is typical, he’s not a scorer, but he’s leading our team in plus/minus. He takes charges, he rebounds, he dives for loose balls, he does all the things that show how valuable a player is. It’s cool because those guys don’t always get the pub.”
Rygiel is R-B’s king of taking charges, which earns him five points each time. In R-B’s 68-65 victory over Grant for Marengo’s E.C. Nichols Tournament championship, Rygiel scored 43 plus/minus points with 25 for five charging fouls he drew. Steals and offensive rebounds are worth four points each, defensive rebounds are three and field goals are two or three (if it’s a 2- or 3-pointer). There are negative points for field-goal misses, fouls and free-throw misses.
Players sometimes mention to each other and the coaches during games to be sure they were credited with a steal or a deflection (plus-1).
Creason enjoys how the Rockets (16-5) have embraced the scoring system, chasing Rygiel as the plus/minus leader more than Sam Kaufman as the scoring leader. Rygiel, meanwhile, is chasing his older brother Matt’s plus/minus records. Matt’s 34.8 average a game in 2012 set the team record, while his twin Zach had 26.2 that season.
“We take averages for the season, and right now I’m in the lead,” said Danny Rygiel, who averages 30.3 plus/minus points a game. “It gives you a whole new way of scoring, not just by points. It shows you don’t always score points, but you’re still contributing to the team in a positive way.”
Creason has plus/minus records for games and seasons posted in the locker room and says the players love the concept.
When Creason was asked for his scoring leaders this season, Creason said it would take some time. However, he would have been able to produce plus/minus numbers almost instantly.
“The kids really get into it, it’s a better overall indicator of how you did,” Creason said.
Mike Kaska (28.3), Joey St. Pierre (22.1) and Kaufman (21.0) are the closest to Rygiel in plus/minus.
“Everyone wants to get the charges,” said Kaufman, who leads R-B at 16.2 points a game. “It creates more of a competition. It might be for the coaches, but it creates competition for us because everyone wants to make their teammates better. I need a couple more charges and deflections, and less missed shots.”
Although Rygiel, a 6-foot-3 senior, strives to stay ahead of Kaska, he also wants to catch Matt’s school record, though he senses a conspiracy is afoot to drive him even harder.
“Sometimes I feel like I get gypped on rebounds,” Rygiel said. “That’s just Creason, he wants my score lower. He doesn’t want me to beat my brother. I’m trying my best to beat [Matt] and [Creason’s] taking away points.”