Kansas State University

Freshmen class ready to shine for Kansas State

MANHATTAN — It's easy to remember the time Rodney McGruder scored 20 points and grabbed five rebounds against Boston University.

The near double-double of 15 points and seven rebounds Wally Judge recorded against Alabama was memorable, too.

McGruder and Judge, two of five freshmen on the Kansas State basketball team, were hot on those nights and helped the Wildcats win a pair of games.

K-State's freshman class has been less noticeable in the Wildcats' other 10 games, however. McGruder, the group's top scorer, is averaging 5.9 points, and Judge, the group's best rebounder, is averaging 3.5 boards.

On a team that leans on its veterans for point production, coach Frank Martin believes those stats are deceiving and that his youngest players performed reasonably well during their first semesters in college.

"At different times during the year," he said, "they've all contributed."

But freshman guard Martavious Irving is striving for more. He feels his recruiting class has "a lot of work" ahead of it.

"As a freshman class, we can do so much more," said Irving, who as a freshman was allowed to speak with media for the first time Monday. "Even though we've been doing pretty well as freshmen so far, I can speak for Frank that he expects more out of us."

More than anything, what he wants from them is consistency.

Like everyone else who follows K-State basketball, he has been pleased with their highlight moments. What he could live without is the lowlights.

With no classes to worry about until mid-January, Martin expects to see improvement in the next two weeks.

"It's a critical time of year for them, because there is no responsibility other than basketball," Martin said. "It's a critical time of year for them to really get in here and get the best understanding of what we do."

In other words, it's time to step up because Big 12 play begins on Jan. 9.

"They've gotten better," Martin said. "I think they hit a plateau late in November sometime where they flattened out a bit. They came back in before Christmas break, that 10 day period they were pretty good. Now the last two days of practice they've shown some of the flashes that they showed before they went on break."

Judge, who has cracked the starting lineup, believes it won't take much for K-State's freshmen to become consistent.

He points out that Irving has emerged as an efficient outside shooter and one of the team's better defenders, and that both Jordan Henriquez-Roberts and Nick Russell were solid early in the year.

He also likes the way McGruder can come off the bench to make three-pointers at a moment's notice.

It hasn't happened yet, but in time Judge believes the stats will show how good K-State's freshmen are.

"It's been exciting," Judge said. "A couple guys been up and down, a couple guys been consistent. In all we're a strong class, and we should be mentioned amongst the top classes that came out of high school. We've got a lot of good players."

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