March 1, 2013
Commentary by Mark Janssen
Good-byes are always difficult for family friends and that’s certainly going to be the case for K-Staters on their respective Senior Days. That’s this afternoon at 12:30 for the women against Texas Tech, and then on 7 p.m. Tuesday evening when the men play host to Texas Christian.
Four-year Wildcat family members, and friends, are exactly what Brittany Chambers and Mariah White have become.
Talking with Deb Patterson prior to the start of the year, she called Chambers “solid gold.”
If 14 carat before the start to the season, Chambers has become 24-carat status today following a senior season when she hoisted a youthful roster depleted by injuries onto her shoulders and gave K-State hope each time out, and gave the kids of the program an example to play to.
Game after game, with the opponent’s scouting report focused on No. 2, Chambers played with such heart, such passion, such toughness, not to mention averaging just a smidgen under 20 points per game, second only to sure-to-be National Player of the Year Brittney Griner of Baylor.
Chambers’ career ends with a certain elite status. She’s the only guard in KSU history to be ranked in the Top 10 in scoring (third), rebounds (seventh) and assists (ninth).
Associate head coach Kamie Ethridge said of Chambers, who will be making her 122nd start today in a 126-game career, “Creating your own shot is a lost art. She’s as good as we’ve ever had in creating shots with the ball in her hand at Kansas State.”
Now, to Mr. McGruder.
McGruder has had a career in constant flux. First, Dalonte Hill, the associate head coach that recruited him, left the Wildcat staff; then all-star Jacob Pullen graduated; then Frank Martin departed… which left the Washington, D.C., native in a state of question, if not doubt.
Bruce Weber openly says that the first recruit that he landed at K-State was Rodney McGruder.
“He was the leader of this team. I had to win him over to move forward,” Weber said. “He is such a first-class individual, and when I gained his confidence, he’s the one that I will credit with recruiting the rest of the team to give this a chance.”
Today that chance has turned into a first-place standing in the Big 12 Conference. That, my friends, would be a first at K-State since 1977.
To each coach, McGruder has learned, and he gives his thanks.
“The previous staff pushed me in ways I’ve never been pushed before. It helped me out. It made me the player I am today giving 120 percent,” said McGruder. “With Coach Weber it’s been just staying the course. Control what you can control and don’t worry about things you can’t. I will take what I learned from both into the rest of my life.”
McGruder played in the shadows of the spotlight that shined on Pullen for two seasons. With No. 0 gone as the all-time leading scorer in K-State history, there were questions, if not doubts, that McGruder could come to the rescue as the “main” ‘Cat.
He could. He’s the first ever Wildcat to score at least 1,400 points, collect 600 rebounds and dish out 100 steals in a career that will include four NCAA Tournaments on his final resume.
Oh yes, like Chambers, both have also been first-team members to the All-Big 12 Academic team.
Speaking for the K-State faithful, to Chambers and McGruder, we give you a special bow of gratitude and hand of appreciation for the memories of being in that miniature class of being among the elite of the elite in K-State history.
Not to be forgotten are your senior friends.
Mariah White, among the top 10 in all-time assists and steals, has picked up the nickname “300” this year for being that leader in KSU’s depleted, but brave pack of Spartans in their weekly “Battle Of Thermopylae” in the Big 12 Conference.
“She may not have the entire skill set, but by example she’s been tremendous,” said Ethridge. “She has all those intangibles of heart and being such a competitor.”
With Jordan Henriquez, never before have K-Staters cheered such a shot-blocker. He has found such a comfort in streets like Kimball Avenue and Campus Drive as opposed to starting each morning before daybreak on his 90-minute trek on the Long Island rail system to Penn Station and on to his New York City high school campus.
“It seems only months ago that I walked onto this campus having no idea of where I really was or what I was getting into, but I’ve enjoyed it. It’s been great,” said Henriquez. “I can’t imagine leaving here.”
With Martavious Irving it’s been a career of yearly growth as a role player. His name will appear only once in the K-State all-time record book. Along-side McGruder and Henriquez, the name of “Irving” will be listed as players being a part of an all-time high 97 (and counting) wins, and a record four NCAA Tournaments.
“Tay could have gone off and pouted with what we’ve asked him to do, but he didn’t,” said Weber. “He’s been a rock for us.”
He leaves with an attitude of “… having a lot of good memories to tell my kids about. It’s been a great place to play, I’ve had great coaches. Coming to K-State is the best choice I’ve ever made in my life.”
To Martavious, Jordan and Rodney, and to Brittany and Mariah … one last time Wildcats everywhere thank you for the thrills and making Kansas State your school of choice … we hope the best choice you’ve ever made in your life.