Another year, another sluggish start for Rodney McGruder.
Just six games into the season, the Kansas State senior is averaging just 11 points per game.
McGruder, the team’s returning leading scorer at 15.8 points per game, has scored a total of 66 points this season, scoring 16 points in two of the last three games alone.
But it’s not the first time McGruder has had a shaky start to his season. A starter in every game as a sophomore and junior, McGruder opened the 2011-12 season with a 20-point performance. And then he fell off a bit.
His next four games saw dwindling scoring performances of 14 points, than 11 and than seven points in back-to-back games. He appeared to come back with another game of 20 points, but then averaged 7.25 points in the four games after that.
His season would essentially turn around in one of the Wildcats key victories last year, scoring 28 points in a win over Long Beach State on Christmas day that seemingly kick started his shooting the rest of the way.
But McGruder hasn’t looked confident until the Wildcats’ loss to Michigan last Friday when he led the team with 16 points in its first loss of the year.
In an offense that’s designed to create more shots and opportunities for a player like McGruder, it’s just not happening.
The senior said the confidence is starting to grow after his performance against the Wolverines.
“I’ve been talking to the coaches a lot about a lot of things so after the Michigan game I am feeling more confident,” he said. “I’ve been working on coming off screens and the things our offense allows us to do. There aren’t any growing pains. We’re 5-1 and winning, and that’s all that matters.”
The Wildcats capped three tough days of practice on Wednesday with a scrimmage.
Junior guard Will Spradling said McGruder’s performance gave him flashbacks of what he did last year.
“In our scrimmage he kind of took over as the scorer he was last year,” he said. “That’s good to see because we haven’t seen it that much this year. I think he is getting more comfortable and more confident.”
Spradling indicated there might be some growing left to do in the new offensive system, and he thought that might have been why the Wildcats struggled in New York. Past that, they just couldn’t get shots to fall.
With nine days between their loss to Michigan and their next game against South Carolina Upstate, the Wildcats have a lot of time to spend in the practice facility.
McGruder said it gives them chances to improve.
“It is nice to have all of this practice to get back to the principles of things you learned at the beginning of the season,” he said. “It’s tough because you like to play games. You just have to take advantage of the opportunities we have in practice to get better and prepare for those games. Practice is harder than a game so if you practice at a high level, the game becomes much easier.”
Kansas State coach Bruce Weber said McGruder looked good during Wednesday’s scrimmage.
“I sat and talked to him today and the coaches have been talking to him - he had a real good scrimmage and made some shots,” he said. “Letting loose at the end of the Michigan game and coming to the gym and putting in time, I hope not only he improves but all of them get better.”