It’s the dream of every aspiring basketball player, and it’s one that’s alive in the minds of Rodney McGruder and Jordan Henriquez.
To play professional basketball.
And of course all young men who want to play past their college years dream to play at the ultimate level in the NBA.
Neither Kansas State senior can be found among the early mock drafts right now, with still seven months and a whole college season to be played until the 2013 NBA draft in June.
But Kansas State coach Bruce Weber said he has talked to NBA scouts about each player, and both need to improve in a common area.
Consistency — which just happens to be the area he is looking for his whole team to improve in.
At 6-foot-5, McGruder offers a physical, yet short, shooting guard to NBA teams. But his size and ability doesn’t stack up to most shooting guards in the NBA, so Weber said he will have to improve in a few base areas.
“When I’ve talked to people, you know NBA, I’ve asked them,” he said. “If he wants to have a chance, he’s got to be a really consistent perimeter shooter. We’ve really challenged him to work on that 3-point shooting to give himself a chance.”
McGruder grew up in Washington D.C. as a Washington Wizards fan, but said he focuses on players now, and the kind of skills they individually bring to the court, and their teams.
His idol might be a little different than most would expect though. McGruder said he admires Maryland native Len Bias — someone he heard a lot about in his childhood.
“He’s from my area, him and my dad were childhood friends,” he said. “I always looked at Len Bias and saw how hard he worked and the things he accomplished.”
Ironically, McGruder never even had a chance to see Bias play during his lifetime. Bias died just two days after being selected by the Boston Celtics in 1986, and McGruder was born in 1991.
The K-State senior said he watches videos of Bias on the internet and listens to others speak about him.
“The way he approached the game, he always played hard all the time and he never gave up,” McGruder said. “I’ve watched a lot of YouTube videos of him and seen the things he’s done and things people have said about him, and they always say he worked hard.”
McGruder said being drafted would mean a lot to his family and everyone that has followed his career to this point.
But does he think he has what it takes to be drafted?
“I work hard enough, I don’t see why not — hopefully I will be there,” he said. “That’s always been my dream since I was a kid, hopefully I can make that dream a reality.”
Henriquez offers NBA teams an unorthodox center just shy of 7-feet tall. His best quality in his college career has been his shot-blocking ability, and he has shown an ability to score in spurts over the course of several games.
Henriquez said he feels as if his dream of playing in the NBA is on the horizon.
“I feel like its close, I’m right there towards it,” he said. “Coach tells me all the time, ‘the more you win games, the more your name gets out there, whether you’re the key player or not.’ But me being a senior and knowing that my time is almost up, knowing that I’m getting closer to my dreams, I feel like I’m right there — so why not go all out?”
The Wildcats new Basketball Training Facility features a wall dedicated to former K-State players to make it the NBA inside the men’s locker room.
Henriquez said he wants a chance to build upon the NBA history for K-State.
“I see all those NBA players, all those guys that wore that K-State jersey, that wore it proudly, and I definitely want to be on that wall someday,” he said. “It means a lot to me and as I see guys I played with up there on the wall, I feel like one day I can be up there with them.”
Weber said both players have a chance to make it to the NBA, but he said they should both learn the valuable lesson that not every player on the team will be a star.
“Coach Del Harris told me this at a clinic a few years ago, tell your players 85 percent of the guys in the NBA are role players, and that’s what they’ve got to realize,” he said. “With Rodney, what’s your niche? He can guard, if he can shoot the 3, now you have a chance. It’s just consistency with Jordan and he’s got to get strong and be active.”