Wildcats Go International

Erik Kynard

Aug. 18, 2011

By Mark Janssen – K-State Sports Extra

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The team result didn’t go as planned, but for Kansas State’s Rodney McGruder, the trip to the Four Nations Cup earlier this month was nothing but a positive experience.

“It was fun and a good experience. It provided another chance to improve my game,” said the 6-foot-4 Wildcat junior-to-be. “I played shooting guard and a little small forward, and it was a chance to see how I could play with the ball in my hands more.”

The East Coast All-Stars lost to the Georgia National team, 98-81, and fell to the Estonian National team, 75-64, but defeated Sweden, 78-77, with McGruder scoring the game-winner at the buzzer.

“I was disappointed that we didn’t win the tournament, but it was a good chance to play a much more physical style where you didn’t get many calls,” said McGruder, who was the lone USA player to make the all-tournament team with a scoring average of 13.7, plus 6.7 rebounds and 2.7 steals per game.

The tournament was staged in Tallinn on the Baltic Sea, while other practices and exhibitions took place throughout Estonia.

“It was an easy-going country where people seemed to stay to themselves,” said McGruder, whose best game was when he scored 22 points and grabbed 14 rebounds in the loss to Georgia. “Most of the food was catered at the hotel, so it was good. There was a McDonald’s, but we tried not to eat there because we have that back home.”

McGruder is the second Wildcat to make an International all-tourney team as Will Spradling earned the honor during an Athletes In Action tour of Kosovo and Macedonia earlier this summer.

After averaging 11.4 points and 6.0 rebounds per game as a sophomore, McGruder said he is ready to accept more of the responsibility of being a team leader and go-to player with the loss of seniors Jacob Pullen and Curtis Kelly.

“I’ve been pleased with the summer, but it’s easy to lead when things are going easy and there’s no pressure, which is different than when times are tough,” said McGruder, a native of Washington D.C. “I’m looking forward to having more of a role.”

McGruder added, “I think we can be good. We believe in one another and have come together as a team. We had a lot of things going on last year with guys missing practices and games, which didn’t help out too much. We hope to avoid that this year.”

The Kansas State Wildcats are taking on the world this week with three track and field standouts representing their homelands in the World University Games in Shenzhen, China. NCAA high jump champion Erik Kynard will be part of Team USA for the meet, and Martynas Jurgilas (100 meters) and Mantas Silkauskas (100 hurdles) will both represent their native Lithuania.

Following the World University Games, Kynard will travel to Deagu, South Korea, to join the senior national team for the IAAF World Championships.

In a recent chat with the Wildcat junior-to-be, he talked about some international hopes, both on and off the high jump apron.

“My hope is to go 7 foot-8 inches,” said Kynard, who cleared 7-7 a half-dozen times last season. “I try not to think about how high it is but only defeating the bar. The goal is to always jump beyond the bar.”

And what about the mental aspect of jumping that next inch … 7-7 to 7-8?

Laughing, Kynard said, “They always list it as meters, and I’ve yet to figure out how to convert meters to feet and inches, so that really isn’t a factor.”

As for other international goals, Kynard, a business-entrepreneurship major, says he is/was also seriously thinking about a minor in Chinese.

“It makes sense since there are more people in China than in any other country,” Kynard said of the possible business opportunities.

But wouldn’t that take learning to speak Chinese?

Laughing, “That would probably help, but it would be like math. At first you never think you’ll learn it, but eventually you get the hang of it.”

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