Rodine McGruder remembers it vividly: “It would be raining and with thunder and lightning, and Rodney would be out there bouncing a ball in the rain. You’d hear that bouncing ball with all that rain coming down.”
With that passion for hoops in young Rodney’s DNA, both of the parents of Kansas State’s first-team All-Big 12 player aren’t surprised that he’s turned into the player he is today.
“I knew he had this in him,” said McGruder’s father, Rodney Sr. “He’s always had that drive. I had confidence in him because he’s always had that work-ethic. No, I’m not surprised.”
Mom Rodine agreed, “As a young boy, he just loved basketball. You couldn’t take a ball away from him. (Chuckling) I just always remember that bouncing ball out in the rain.”
Talk with Rodney and Rodine McGruder and they beam.
No one sees it more than their son, Rodney Christian McGruder, who saw his season, and career as a Wildcat, end last week with the loss to La Salle in the NCAA Tournament.
“I’m the first one in the family to have graduated from college. I know they’re proud of that. That means a lot to them,” said the Kansas State senior. “They tell me, but they don’t have to. I can see the pride in their eyes.”
Now that McGruder’s playing days as a Wildcat are complete, the disappointment has set in with him, but probably more so to his parents.
Rodine, who admits all the travel during their son’s senior year as a Wildcat has put a hit on their family budget, “It’s like we’re living a dream. In no way are were ready for it to end.”
McGruder’s dad added, “Thinking about him not in that K-State uniform is tough to handle. I mean tough.”
As fans in the stands, Rodine laughed, “Oh, we’re wild in the stands. I try to apologize to people around me before the game starts, but they always say, ‘You go right ahead and act crazy.’ I cheer for Rodney, but I cheer for all of them. They’re all such good boys.”
The McGruder’s have done their best to see most of their son’s biggest moments. What parent wouldn’t want to be there when their son won the Big 12 championship; what parent wouldn’t want to be on hand to give a son a hug after winning first-team All-Big 12 honors; what parent wouldn’t want to be on hand for a son’s Senior Night; what parent wouldn’t want to see a son go off for 24, 25 and 18 points at the Big 12 Championship; what parent wouldn’t want to see a son … step-by-step … climb the historic scoring ladder within a storied program like Kansas State?
And really, what parent wouldn’t want to be around a son like Rodney McGruder.
“He’s made us so proud, but we were so proud of him before he came here. He’s just always been a good boy,” said Rodine. Laughing, “He was a mischievous boy … he was all boy … but a good boy.”
Four years ago when Rodney took the advice of KSU associate head coach Dalonte Hill to become a Wildcat, he had the full support of his parents.
“He needed to go work on what he wanted to do and not be distracted by some of the riff-raff back home,” said McGruder’s father, who is an electrician for the Washington D.C. transit system.
When Hill left for Maryland, and then Frank Martin was off to South Carolina, McGruder admitted, “That was a little concerning, but when Frank left I did some homework and found that coach Weber was a good coach and a nice guy. We relaxed after that.”
With each coach, young McGruder said, “I tried to learn from both. Frank 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."
With Bruce 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.”