Feb 23, 2013; Austin, TX, USA; Kansas State Wildcats guard Rodney McGruder (22) leads a fast break against the Texas Longhorns during the second half at the Frank Erwin Special Events Center. Kansas State beat Texas 81-69. Brendan Maloney-USA TODAY Sports

Rodney McGruder A Top 30 Naismith Award Finalist

Following in the footsteps of recent Wildcats Michael Beasley and Jacob Pullen, Rodney McGruder has been selected as one of 30 candidates for the 2013 Naismith Men’s College Player of the Year Award. Although the 2012 award went to a center – Kentucky freshman Anthony Davis – the Naismith title has been dominated by forwards and guards over the past 20 years. And while McGruder has been a special player this year, it would be an uphill slog for him to move from candidate to College Player of the Year.

McGruder has not surprised anyone this year – he was one of three unanimous selections to the Preseason All-Big 12 team. As a junior, McGruder started all 33 games while leading the team with 15.8 points per game, and was the top statistical player in several other categories. We knew he was good. What has turned heads is the success that the Wildcats enjoyed this year – Kansas State is tied for first in the conference with only three games left in the season after serving as an afterthought in the preseason Coaches Poll (picked to finish fifth) while starting off the season unranked on the national stage. Yet while McGruder has been an important component of this rise, K-State’s success has largely been a team effort with the maturation of Thomas Gipson, Angel Rodriguez, and other key components pushing this team to the next level.

McGruder is Kansas State’s most dangerous scorer, and no team trying to get a defensive stop wants the ball in his hands. He has been named the conference player of the week on four separate occasions this season. He is averaging 14.8 ppg and 5.4 rpg while leading the team in minutes played. He has gotten better as the season progresses, increasing his scoring and rebounding averages to 15.7 and 5.2, respectively, in Big 12 play. Additionally, there is no “national sensation” this year that captivates the media’s attention like Davis last year, Jimmer Fredette in 2011, Blake Griffin in 2009, or Tyler Hansbrough in 2008. This seemingly puts the award up for grabs among all 30 candidates, and a great player that helps his team exceed expectations has a shot as a dark horse, if nothing else. However, taking home the national player of the year may be difficult for player without a cache of games that he essentially took over (though the 28 point winning effort against Oklahoma State certainly carries some bragging rights). Yet the most impressive statistic may be McGruder’s playing time – he has played at least 35 minutes in every conference game that wasn’t a blow out, and played 39 minutes against Iowa State in one game and all 40 in the other, as well as 40 against Oklahoma. McGruder leaves everything on the floor, every game.

Three other Big 12 players are also listed among the candidates: Ben McLemore and Jeff Withey of KU and Marcus Smart of Oklahoma State. Here is the full list of candidates, provided by the Atlanta Tipoff Club:

Last Name First Name Class Position School
Bennett Anthony Freshman F UNLV
Berggren Jared Senior F Wisconsin
Burke Trey Sophomore G Michigan
Canaan Isaiah Senior G Murray State
Carter-Williams Michael Sophomore G Syracuse
Clark Ian Senior G Belmont
Clarke Rotnei Senior G Butler
Cooley Jack Senior C Notre Dame
Crabbe Allen Junior G California
Curry Seth Senior G Duke
Dellavedova Matthew Senior G Saint Mary’s
Franklin Jamaal Junior G San Diego State
Kilpatrick Sean Junior F Cincinnati
Larkin Shane Sophomore G Miami
McDermott Doug Junior F Creighton
McGruder Rodney Senior G Kansas State
McLemore Ben Freshman G Kansas
Muhammad Shabazz Freshman G UCLA
Muscala Mike Senior C Bucknell
Oladipo Victor Junior G Indiana
Olynyk Kelly Senior C Gonzaga
Paul Brandon Senior G Illinois
Plumlee Mason Senior F Duke
Porter Jr. Otto Sophomore F Georgetown
Smart Marcus Freshman G Oklahoma State
Smith Russ Junior G Louisville
Thomas Deshaun Junior F Ohio State
Withey Jeff Senior C Kansas
Wolters Nate Senior G South Dakota State
Zeller Cody Sophomore F Indiana

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Tags: Basketball K-State Kansas State Naismith Award Rodney McGruder

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