March is the most exciting time in all of college basketball. It is the time when players create their legacies. Being able to go out in front of the entire country and play in the NCAA tournament is what these athletes live for.
K-State fans are lucky to have senior Rodney McGruder leading the way, and McGruder is ready to cement his place amidst the madness of March.
McGruder has been a part of tournament play for the past three seasons. However, in those years, he was not facing his final run — he knew he would be coming back for another season.
He does not have that luxury this season, and if Thursday night was any indicator, McGruder is about to take fans on one hell of a ride.
In the game against Texas, McGruder finished with 24 points and seven rebounds, hitting 4-of-8 from the 3-point line.
After the game, McGruder talked about his mentality this March.
“Tonight I just played with a sense of urgency,” McGruder said. “I knew this could have been my last game in the Sprint Center, so I tried to go out there and give it my all, lay it all on the line.”
As the team’s leader, it is McGruder’s responsibility to get the team rolling when the opponent tries to make a run. That is just what McGruder did.
A dunk by Texas freshman center Cameron Ridley pulled the Longhorns to within 8 points of the Wildcats with 11 minutes to go, bringing the Texas bench to their feet.
On the next possession, McGruder hit a 3-pointer with the shot clock winding down, starting a 10-0 K-State run in which he scored 8 points to extend the lead to 56-38, giving his own version of an Anderson Silva knockout blow.
McGruder said he had no choice except to hit that shot because of a great pass from sophomore point guard Angel Rodriguez.
“Angel did a good job of penetrating,” McGruder said. “I looked behind him and he found me, and I was fortunate enough to make the shot.”
At the beginning of the season, many wondered whether or not McGruder had the mindset to take over the team, or according to ESPNU analyst Matt Doherty, the ability.
When asked about McGruder and K-State in the preseason, Doherty said the Wildcats did not have the talent to compete and none of their players could start for a top program. He went on to say that McGruder was a question mark, not sure he could be an All-Big 12 caliber player.
It is safe to say that McGruder has proved what he is capable of. After a first team All-Big 12 and co-Big 12 champion season, McGruder on Thursday showed that he is not content, and that he will go out in style.
Mark Kern is a senior in print journalism. Please send comments to [email protected]