Rodney McGruder grew up in the shadow of America’s capital city, listening to stories of his father’s childhood friend Len Bias and dreaming of making it to the NBA.
So it should be no surprise that McGruder wanted to stay in the Washington D.C. area when he went to college.
But he didn’t.
Going with his family’s suggestion of leaving home, McGruder came to Kansas State. Four years later, McGruder is on the front of the media guide, plastered on billboards throughout Kansas and thought of as the Wildcats’ best player.
On Saturday, McGruder will return home as the Wildcats take on George Washington.
The Wildcat senior said he expects more than 60 friends and family members to attend the game, as many as 40 whom haven’t seen him play since high school.
“I’m just excited to allow my family that’s not able to make it out here to Manhattan to finally get a chance to see me play college basketball — that’s pretty exciting,” he said.
McGruder said he plans on spending time with his family at the hotel this weekend, a short drive from where most of them live.
He will take the court against players he knows from George Washington, like Lasan Kromah and Isaiah Armwood.
McGruder said despite all the friends and family that will be there, he doesn’t feel added pressure to have a great game.
“No pressure at all, they’ve been watching me all my life coming to high school games and AAU tournaments, no pressure at all,” he said. “Just go out there and do the things I’m capable of.”
McGruder is focused on team improvement on Saturday, and helping the Wildcats prove they are a good basketball team in their first true road game of the season.
George Washington comes into the game with a 4-4 record, but K-State coach Bruce Weber said they provide the kind of test his team needs as it nears Big 12 play, and games against Gonzaga and Florida in the next few weeks.
“Obviously competition is getting better and we have to see if we have gotten better so we can compete with that level of team,” he said. “First you’ve got a road game with an Atlantic 10 team and it will be a huge game for them.”
The Wildcats are in the midst of schedule that has them playing four games in three weeks. The team has used the opportunity to improve through practice, but Weber said he wishes they could have put an extra game in there after seeing the energy the team opened the game against South Carolina Upstate with.
“I think it would have been nice between one of the two weeks to have one game — one of those two weeks we could have put a game in there to keep game rhythm,” he said. “It looked like the Upstate game, at the beginning, that we hadn’t played a game in nine days and they had played two.”
The Wildcats played George Washington a season ago in a 69-56 win, led by a 17-point, 13-rebound performance from Thomas Gipson.
Just eight games into the season, Weber emphasized that this is not a make or break game for the Wildcats in terms of a resume as the season goes on. But it will show them a lot going forward.
“It’s not the season, it’s not going to make or break us, but we’re going to learn a lot about where we’re at,” he said.