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Angel Rodriguez’s transfer leaves a hole Kansas State may struggle to fill

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Angel Rodriguez (Getty Images)

Kansas State already knew it would lose standout guard Rodney McGruder to graduation this offseason.

Now the Wildcats must also overcome the departure of a member of the starting backcourt they did not expect to lose.

Angel Rodriguez, a second-team all-Big 12 point guard as a sophomore this past season, announced Monday night he intends to transfer to a school closer to his family in Puerto Rico. The 5-foot-11 guard averaged 11.4 points and 5.2 assists last season, leading the Wildcats in 3-pointers, assists and steals.

“After multiple conversations, Angel feels an obligation to be closer to his family,” Kansas State coach Bruce Weber said in a statement. “His mother is raising his two younger brothers all by herself in San Juan and he just wants to be able to see them more often.”

Rodriguez's departure comes as a surprise because he thrived under Weber last season and almost certainly would have been one of the Big 12's top point guards again as a junior. He had briefly considered transferring after Frank Martin left Kansas State last spring, but opted to remain with the Wildcats after a meeting with the then-newly hired Weber.

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“It is important that everyone understands that this was a really difficult decision,” Rodriguez said in a statement. “I have really enjoyed my time here and this decision was based entirely on my family and has nothing do with Kansas State, basketball or the coaching staff. It’s unfortunate after the year we just had, but I just feel right now this is the best thing for me and my family."

Without Rodriguez, McGruder and graduated big man Jordan Henriquez, Kansas State may struggle to come close to matching last year's 27-8 record that resulted in a co-Big 12 title and an NCAA tournament bid.

Starters Will Spradling and Shane Southwell and experienced big man Thomas Gipson each return to form a decent nucleus, but the Wildcats will need newcomers or unproven reserves to contribute. Omari Lawrence, Nino Williams and D.J. Johnson will have the chance to take on increased workloads, as will the members of Weber's unheralded five-man recruiting class.

Rodriguez will surely be one of the most coveted transfers on the market this offseason because plenty of schools could benefit from a quality two-year option at point guard. Meanwhile Kansas State will have to hope its young players are ready to be thrown into the fire sooner than expected.

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