HEAT CHECK: Wally, Rodney and Nick

NOTE: This will be a recurring item that will feature an update on how Kansas State prospects are currently doing.

Based on attendance figures, it seems some K-State fans must believe the men’s basketball team won’t be worth following until next year. While I usually don’t like to reward such negligence, I decided to check in anyway with Arlington Country Day’s Rex Morgan, who coaches two of the jewels in K-State’s recruiting class, Wally Judge and Rodney McGruder, and Arlington (Texas) Grace Prep’s Ray Forsett, who coaches Nick Russell.

ACD is 13-5, finishing with a 5-4 record in two national tournaments. McGruder, whom Morgan said is a legit 6-foot-6 with shoes on, is averaging 22 points and eight rebounds. The four-star recruit has struggled a little lately with his three-point shot, but McGruder spent some extra time in the gym Tuesday. He took 300 threes, and Morgan said he made 71 percent — someone is going to have to do the math on that.

Viewed by some as a shooter, Morgan said McGruder is a scorer.

“From 18 feet in, he’s outstanding,” Morgan said. “He has a little floater… Great intermediate game.”

Judge, regarded as a five-star recruit, has been impressive, too. The numbers — 19 points and 14 re-bounds — might be a little misleading, perhaps underwhelming. Not so, Morgan said.

For starters, there is a mercy rule in effect in Florida, which means a running clock in the second half of blowouts. Judge and McGruder might play the first eight minutes of the second half and then ride the bench.
Plus, Morgan said Judge, whom he said was 6-foot-10, has played his best against the best, such as his head-to-head showdown in the Hoops in Overdrive Shootout recently with LeFlore (Ala.) big man DeMarcus Cousins — LeFlore won, 56-55 — and in wins against Raleigh (N.C.) Word of God, which is led by one of the nation’s top guards, John Wall, and Cedar Hill (Texas).

“He’s been protecting the rim and he can really run the floor,” Morgan said. “He’s also an outstanding rebounder… Playing with (Denis) Clemente, he’ll be perfect. He can run all day. I don’t know many big guys who can run with him.”

As for Russell, the 6-foot-4 point guard has guided Grace to a 18-4 record. The three-star recruit has been hounded by the opposition — word of his commitment to K-State has gotten around — and Forsett said it’s become routine for other teams to run two defenders at Russell in an effort to get the ball out of his hands. As a result, his numbers have dipped — 17 points, nine rebounds and five assists per game — but his play hasn’t.

“He’s creating a lot more for his teammates, being a better leader,” Forsett said.

The key this year is finishing. The past two years, Grace has lost in the state championship, and Forsett has challenged Russell to take the next step, to “get over the hump.”

“That’s what great point guards do,” Forsett said.


- All three plan on getting to Manhattan as soon as possible — the summer — in an effort to get acclimated with teammates and get ahead in the classroom.

- Judge won the slam dunk contest at the Beach Ball Classic, emulating Michael Jordan on his second effort. “I tried to take it back to Jordan with the rock-the-cradle,” he told the Columbia (S.C.) State.

- Russell and Forsett were supposed to be in Manhattan this weekend for K-State’s Big 12 opener against Oklahoma, but that plan was scratched. Forsett said they’ll make a couple of trips to Bramlage this season, probably for the KU game Feb. 14. Meanwhile, they’ve been trying to follow the Wildcats when they can, the most recent opportunity being the nationally-televised loss at Oregon in which the cameras were fixated on Frank Martin’s sideline behavior.

Forsett laughed.

“Nick knows Frank is just like me,” he said, laughing. “I’m ‘in-your-face’ myself. That won’t be much of a difference for him. I’m in his behind, a little worse than Frank.”

- Morgan said K-State wasn’t considering any other ACD products at the moment, but he said that could change in the near future, depending upon transfers, etc. As is, he believes the Wildcats already landed a major haul.

“Their upside is tremendous,” he said of Judge and McGruder.