It was something that just came natural to Melvin Ejim.
In a era where crossovers and dunks are highlighted, his best skill is just as overlooked and underappreciated as Ejim, himself: rebounding.
"Coming in as a freshman rebounding was something I kind of just did; it was part of the game," Ejim said. "As of late, I've been focusing more on it, trying to make it more a part of my game."
It's been a major, if not the most important, part of Ejim's game. On a team that doesn't boast a player taller than 6-foot-9, his rebounding ability at the mere height of 6-foot-6 is a key reason Iowa State is currently a top-10 rebounding team in the nation.
Ejim is nearly averaging a double-double to this point in the season with 11.1 points per game and 9.7 rebounds per game. His 9.7 rebounds per game is best in the Big 12, with the closest behind him is Baylor's 7-foot-1 freshman Isaiah Austin.
"Melvin just has great instincts," said ISU Coach Fred Hoiberg. "He has great anticipation on where that ball is coming off of the glass, especially on the offensive end. Sometimes, it's one-on-four, and he's the guy that comes up with the ball."
Hoiberg even made a subtle comparison of Ejim's ability to rebound to when he was a scout in the NBA with the Minnesota Timberwolves' Kevin Love, whose ability to rebound led the NBA in 2010-11 and ranked second last season.
"If you can rebound in college, generally it will translate, and you can rebound in the NBA," Hoiberg said. "That's one thing we loved about Kevin Love is he was a great rebounder at UCLA, and it certainly has translated at the next level."
Another reference Hoiberg made was to a game earlier in the season that opened his eyes against Nebraska-Omaha. Ejim started on the bench and played only 18 minutes in the blowout but brought in double-digit rebounds with 13.
Ejim's bare numbers are easy to understand. Nearly averaging a double-double and leading the Big 12 in rebounding as a 6-foot-6 forward is a feat already. In fact, the next closest player in total rebounds is 22 behind him. But, his other statistics are more telling of his impact.
Ejim finds ways to make impactful rebounds. He's No. 1 in the Big 12 in offensive rebounds.
Total Rebounding Percentage is a statistic that measures how many rebounds a player pulls down out of the total number his team does. Or, put more simply, it measures the importance of that player's rebounding to his team.
Ejim is currently at 20.2 percent, which is No. 2 in the Big 12. He also is the best in the Big 12 in defensive rebound percentage.
Rebounding is something that came easily to Ejim. Now, he's just trying to stay focused on it, improving every day.
"It was something that came natural, and now, it's something I think about more and I try to do more and be better at," Ejim said.