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  • Evolution of a senior: JaVon McGee reaches milestones in senior year

  • On the eve of the MIAA Postseason Tournament quarterfinals, Pittsburg State senior forward JaVon McGee would rather talk about anything else than individual career milestones like 1,000 points and 700 rebounds.

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  • On the eve of the MIAA Postseason Tournament quarterfinals, Pittsburg State senior forward JaVon McGee would rather talk about anything else than individual career milestones like 1,000 points and 700 rebounds.
    “Last year, after we lost in the MIAA Championship, I don’t know if anybody remembers it but Coach Muff (Pitt State head coach Kevin Muff) made us stand out there and watch Washburn get the awards, get the trophies,” McGee said on Tuesday. “We had to watch (Washburn guard) Will McNeill get the MVP of the conference tournament. Just sitting out there when we lost and seeing the seniors breaking down and getting all emotional, it was tough to watch.
    “That’s all I’ve been focusing on. I could care less about the awards. I want to go back and get this tournament championship. That’s how it was in high school. We made it all the way to the state championship but it was my senior year and we didn’t get a second chance to do it. . . . I’m willing to do whatever it takes to make sure we get that trophy. I’m ready to come home and get a NCAA berth. We haven’t done it in a while (since 2007).”
    Pitt State (18-9) plays No. 2 seed Central Missouri (19-7) at 6 p.m. tonight in historic Municipal Auditorium. McGee, a Kansas City, Mo., native who played his high school ball at Grandview, played one of the best games in his career in the quarterfinals last year against Central Missouri.
    McGee enjoyed his opportunity to showcase his talents — 25 points on 11-of-14 from the field and 3-5 at the stripe against Central Missouri.
    “It was amazing,” McGee said. “It was my first time ever playing back home. All my friends and family got to see me. I think the only time they got to see me was when we played KU. I think we were getting blown out freshman year and last year, we made a good run at it. They never got a chance to see me unless they came down to Pitt. Not too many of my friends and family came down to Pitt, besides my parents (Ellis III and Sharonne McGee). It was good to be able to come home and having everybody show us love.”
    The Gorillas return to Kansas City this year with an intriguing mix of seniors (McGee, Courtney Ingram, Marky Nolen, Rico Pierrevilus) and freshmen (Kaleb Porter, Jake Bullard, Denton Hays).
    “The key for us has been everybody stepping in and fulfilling their roles,” McGee said. “Not trying to step outside their roles. Having people step up when other people weren’t stepping up. Last year, we had a tough time being consistent. You could see that with the wins and losses, and the losing streaks we would have. We showed how much potential we have when we’d beat some of the better teams in conference. This year, we’ve settled down, fulfilled our roles and listened to the coaches. We’ve bought in even more than last year.”
    Page 2 of 3 - McGee said the four seniors did a good job of getting the newcomers and freshmen to buy in early on.
    Times have not been easy this season for McGee on the injury front: a preseason injury to his left wrist affected his play early in the season and he only recently returned from a separated shoulder.
    “I’m good,” McGee said. “Shoulder’s not really bothering me. I came back from my wrist a long time ago. It’s all thanks to God right now. Without him, I wouldn’t be able to come back. Everybody was telling me I wasn’t supposed to play. With my wrist injury, I wasn’t supposed to play this year. I was supposed to redshirt. I came back two-three months earlier than expected.
    “With my shoulder, I wasn’t supposed to come back. I kept praying and I talked with my parents about it when I was thinking about coming back. I talked to Coach, talked to the doctors about it. Nobody was really approving of it. Everybody told me I needed to sit out, go ahead and have surgery, just recover and get prepared for the next step in my life. I kept praying and stuck with it. Finally, I knew I had to be back on the court. After I got my mama’s approval, it was ready to go. As long as my mom (Sharonne) said yes, I knew I could come back, I was good.”
    Good old Dr. Mom.
    McGee is the final holdover from the Gene Iba Era, a player who spent all four years in a Pitt State uniform — one year playing for Iba and the past three for Kevin Muff.
    “I fell in love with it and made some good friends,” McGee said. “James Robinson, Ian Ponds, my roommate now, and just stuck with it and kept working. Coach Muff told me how much potential I had when he came in and he stuck with me. He’s been working with me ever since.”
    Why did McGee choose to attend Pitt State?
    “Just the campus, the school, the way Coach Iba was and Coach Brock (former PSU assistant Matt Brock),” McGee said. “Mainly the way Coach Brock recruited me. I knew I didn’t want to go to school in Missouri. It was far away from home but close enough for my parents to come. Then, it was something different. I don’t think too many people from Grandview knew about Pittsburg State. Another thing that helped was Coach Freeman (Ron Freeman), he played football here. That’s Josh Freeman’s dad. When he found out I was going on a visit here, he gave me his share of words. It was the right place.”
    Pitt State went 11-3 in a revamped John Lance Arena/Whetzel Court this season — revisions started by the $1.2 million donation by Alan and Roberta Whetzel, PSU alums who first met in the late 1950s on a basketball trip when he was a basketball player and she was a cheerleader.
    Page 3 of 3 - “The Whetzels have been real good to us,” McGee said. “I ran into them (Tuesday) on campus. I gave them a big old hug and told them thank you again. They said their jokes to me and everything. I’m real happy the way my senior year has turned out and everything the men’s basketball program has been blessed with, so it’s just a honor to be able to play again.”
    McGee scored his 1,000th career point at home against Fort Hays State and also grabbed his 700th career rebound on Senior Day against Emporia State. No. 44 ranks third all-time in rebounding.
    The Gorillas won their final home game of the season, defeating Truman State 70-62 on Monday night. In one wild and crazy finish, Pitt State finished strong with nine points in the final minute, seven in the final 17 seconds. The Gorillas led only 27-25 at halftime on a late basket from McGee.
    “It was dead, I’m not going to lie,” McGee said. “The game was bland, boring. If it wasn’t for the band, the coaches and the players’ families, there wasn’t more than a 100 people there. We came back out of halftime and I don’t know where everybody came from. They started cheering for us and the last minute of the game was the most exciting part of the game.”
    McGee, a communication major, is on track to graduate in May.

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