This is going to be short, because I'm already really late in writing it and I want to get something up before the game thread for the 7 p.m. tip. But also there's just not a whole lot that hasn't already been said about the greatness of Rodney McGruder, who has come so far in these past four years.
Just like any other freshman in the Frank Martin era not named Beasley or Walker, McGruder went through some long stretches in the doghouse and never really hit his stride in his first year at Kansas State. Whether that was because of the coaching or because he simply wasn't ready is hard to say, but either way we definitely saw some flashes of greatness.
Rod could always knock down the 3 and throw down some rather incredible dunks, and his sheer athleticism always made him an above-average rebounder for a guard. But it's his determination in all facets of his game and the obvious leadership he has developed that have made him into a legitimate Big 12 Player of the Year candidate.
Even heading into this season, I would never have suspected 15.9 points per game in conference play while making less than 2 3-pointers per contest. Yet he's done that, and his 3-pointers almost always seem to come at crucial times, with Saturday's shot being the most obvious example.
Those kind of plays have been commonplace and get the most attention, but that's not even close to all Rod does for this team. He's also the K-State's best perimeter defender (capable of shutting down even combo guards with 2-3 inches on him if necessary) and simply the heart and soul of this basketball game.
I haven't been to any KSU practices over the last four years, but I'd be willing to bet no one is working harder on a consistent basis than McGruder. His personal record (as far as I know) is impeccable, and it's hard to give him too much credit for making sure everyone came back when Frank left a little less than a year.
Statistically, Rod was a better scorer in almost every way last season, and he's probably be the first to admit he has had his struggles on jump shots this season. Still, it's telling that he's dished out more assists and quite frequently come through when K-State needed him the most. Just ask Oklahoma State.
As a result, Kansas State is getting more wins, and Rod is deservedly getting a lot of the credit. Let's hope he can get a standing ovation and then watch from the bench for the last five minutes or so as his teammates finish off a blowout of TCU.
Martavious Irving is another guy who has shown a lot of growth, even if he never figured out that whole consistency things. He has still found a way to be a reliable backup point guard and occasionally even a dangerous scorer when defenses take him for granted and that shot starts going down.
Some of the same things could be said about Jordan Henriquez, though I think I've made it quite clear he has never really lived up to my admittedly high expectations. Nonetheless, JO was always incredibly fun to watch when he was at his best (i.e. vs. Baylor) and certainly provided some valuable contributions over his four years.
Here's hoping all three of the seniors have a great game tonight, finish the season strong, and go on to do big things in whatever careers they choose to pursue. All three have been excellent representatives of the program and clearly played a huge part in restoring Kansas State's winning tradition.
Programming Note: Because of tonight's game, my regular Tournament Tuesday feature will instead run tomorrow. Hopefully.