The 2012 NBA Draft was held a week ago and the Big 12 conference was well represented with half of the 10 members who competed last season having a player selected. Unfortunately for Kansas State basketball fans this year's draft played out exactly like the 2009, 2010 & 2011 versions as not a single Wildcat was picked in either the first or second rounds.
The last two K-State players to be selected, Michael Beasley and Bill Walker, were both taken in the 2008 draft.
This is not to say that K-State fans have not had some good players to appreciate in Manhattan since 2008, Jacob Pullen comes to mind, but no one was quite NBA draft worthy. For example, Pullen was a great college player who likely could not make the switch over to being a full time point guard in the NBA so he went undrafted. Do not feel bad for Pullen though as he spent last season making a very comfortable living playing basketball in Italy and likely will continue to make a very sizeable income while living abroad.
For a school like Kansas State that is unable to consistently bring in the upper echelon talent each year they have to hit on their few big time recruits if they want to have players picked in the draft. This happened with Beasley and Walker as they spent their minimum amount of time necessary for each before bolting to the league.
The most obvious example of a five star recruit at K-State not living up to the hype recently is Wally Judge. While he is nowhere near the talent level of a Beasley, he still came into K-State as a Top 20 recruit who was getting mentioned as a possible early entrant candidate at some point in his college career. As it turned out he did end up leaving Manhattan after only two seasons but it was to transfer to Rutgers University where he will try to get his once promising career back on track.
So if a school is not getting the top level talent the other method to get players drafted into the NBA is by finding a diamond in the rough and building them up through hard work and coaching.
Fortunately for Wildcat fans they will have two players on the 2012-2013 squad who have a decent chance of breaking the current steak of K-State players not being drafted. One came into Manhattan as a fairly heralded four star recruit while the other falls closer into the diamond in the rough category.
Rodney McGruder entered K-State with many expectations and has seen a large amount of playing time ever since his freshman season. He took a sidekick role during his first two seasons as Pullen was still in town and the definite team leader and top scoring option.
This past season, McGruder took over the role of being the star player on the team. He finished the year averaging 15.4 points per game and for a second straight year he was picked as a 2nd team All-Big 12 selection. As a senior it can reasonably be expected for McGruder to continue and raise his level of play up to where he will should be named a 1st team All-Big 12 performer.
But as Pullen proved no matter how good of a college player you are it doesn't necessarily mean too much when it comes to your NBA prospects. McGruder stands only 6'4" which means he would have to play shooting guard in the NBA and while he is a good athlete he is not the freak athlete seen in the NBA. The combination of his height along with level of athleticism would keep him from being able to create his own shot in the pros and this is something that he has already shown trouble with at the college level.
The positives though that a team could see in McGruder is that he is a strong rebounder for his size and a very good and willing defender. On the offensive end of the floor he has an outstanding mid-range jumper which is something rarely seen in the game of basketball anymore and he has the range to step back and hit NBA three pointers.
While he is definitely not a first round candidate he has a chance to sneak into the second round if he can have a strong senior season and impress teams in workouts following the year much like Kim English of Missouri recently did.
The Kansas State player most likely to be selected is developing center prospect Jordan Henriquez. Even though a look at the stat sheet would not make a person immediately think he is a pro prospect, Henriquez's size alone will get him attention. He is listed either at 6'11" or 7'0" depending on where you look and he has a 7-feet-6 wingspan.
His performance at the tail end of last season showed the potential that NBA teams can see in him. In the Wildcats Big 12 tournament loss against a Baylor squad with three NBA draft picks, Henriquez scored 22 points and grabbed 14 rebounds. He followed up that performance by scoring 15 points in the Wildcats first round NCAA tournament game against Southern Mississippi while also blocking six shots and grabbing nine rebounds.
On the defensive end of the floor Henriquez has started to become a major force on the back end as his teammates can gamble knowing he is back by the basket ready to alter or block shots. He is athletic enough to where he can step out of the paint to guard his opponent while being quick enough to move laterally if the player tries to take him off the dribble.
It is obvious that Henriquez has developed immensely during his time at K-State but his game is still quite raw especially on the offensive end. He has started to become more of a threat with a nice little jump shot which has to impress scouts but for the most part his offensive repertoire still leaves much to be desired.
Perhaps the issue that teams will have to look at the most with Henriquez is if he has the body type to continue and put on weight and become stronger. His lack of strength in the post is an issue that would be exposed on a nightly basis in the professional ranks as he only weighs 250 pounds. Another negative against him is that his basketball IQ comes into question at times and he was also suspended for a game last year by former head coach Frank Martin for unspecified reasons.
The fact remains though that Henriquez is a seven footer with athleticism so he will get a long look from NBA teams. How much he has improved from his junior to senior seasons will help determine his NBA worth a lot more than a player like McGruder. Currently it would be safe to say that some team might take a flier on him in the 2nd round but if he can consistently put together games like he did at the end of last year and in the NCAA Tournament he could sneak into the tail end of the first round.