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Charlotte's Memories: Jerry Vermillion and the unbreakable record

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The leading rebounder in Gonzaga history didn't look like who you think he would.

The old adage goes, 'records were made to be broken.' In most instances, that is quite true. But in just as many instances, there are plenty of records that will never be broken. Perhaps the game evolves, or the style of play changes, and that restricts anyone from ever topping the top.

The Gonzaga Bulldogs have one such record in their books, and it belongs to a man named Jerry Vermillion.

Jerry is the owner of the most rebounds in Gonzaga Bulldogs history with 1,670. In second place? Just some guy named Elias Harris, with a mere 979 rebounds.

That is right. Harris, 7.3 rebounds per game, while playing in 28.0 minutes per game over his collegiate career, finished with 58.6 percent of the amount of rebounds Jerry did. And Elias is number two! And he stayed at Gonzaga for four years! And he started all four years!

In other words, we can consider this record safe realistically forever. The sun will go dark, the trees will all wither up and die, global warming will turn the oceans into boiling vats of acidic, oxygen-less water, and Jerry Vermillion will still own the all-time rebounding record in team history.

But who was he?

Information on him is a bit sparse, as it generally is with those underappreciated players. In this day and age of offense leading the charge on basketball, there isn’t as much focus on the defensive end of the game.

What we do know is Vermillion grew up in all over the place, but eventually came from Montana. That fact he even made the team at Gonzaga was almost a miracle. He suffered a back injury when he was 15, and wouldn’t even be cleared to play basketball in high school until his senior year. He suffered from chronic back and ribcage issues, as well as a painful knee disease called Osgood Slaughters.

Yet, somehow, that was enough for then Gonzaga coach Hank Anderson. Anderson saw plenty of talent in the 6'4 player that would eventually tipoff most games for the Zags, all because this 6'4 player had a standing jump of 11'1.

As Jerry said himself in his memoirs, being tall doesn't mean you grab a rebound. It is all about instincts and placement.

"When it comes to rebounding, it's not how big you are but where you are--and timing. You must be in constant motion for position. It's hard for me to watch some big guy stand flat-footed when he's off the play or loaf away the first steps in transition."

The combo of Jerry's short stature combined with his prowess for securing the loose ball, coach Hank Anderson used him all over the court. Some years he was a combo guard/forward. Other times he was a straight up post player. No matter where he was playing, Jerry Vermillion fit perfectly into Anderson's preferred method of playing: the fast break. It wasn't the bread and butter of too many basketball teams back then, and Anderson's mantra was an easy two-step. Step one: rebound, step two: hurry.

Harris, the number two all time Gonzaga rebounder, played 135 games in a Gonzaga uniform. There aren't many references to total numbers of games played for Jerry Vermillion, although that statistic is probably located somewhere deep within the Gonzaga archives. In his memoirs, he estimated he played anywhere from 30 to 32 games per year.

So, for fun's sake, let us say he played a total of 124 games. That means Jerry averaged approximately 13.5 rebounds per game over his career. He owns four of the top five single season rebounding records in school history, with Domantas Sabonis landing at number three this past season.

Sabonis averaged 11.8 rebounds per game last season. Had he stayed all four years, Sabonis would have needed 488 rebounds his junior and senior year to tie Jerry's record. Sabonis' peak effort last season netted him 426 rebounds in 36 games.

All of this also shows the fickle nature of records. When he left Gonzaga, Jerry Vermillion also owned many of the scoring records, and every single one of those would be wiped out almost immediately by some man named Frank Burgess.

Sometimes, records are made to be broken. Sometimes, they are meant to be etched into stone to stand the test of time.