As Blue Valley High School graduate Ryan Madgziarz prepared for a NCAA Division II men’s basketball national semifinal game with the University of Central Missouri on Thursday morning, he reflected back on all the times growing up that he’d watched other players doing the same thing.
And being envious of those players,
“You always look forward to the Final Four, the big stage,” Madgziarz said. “That’s what we are going through right now, and it’s been a crazy ride.”
Madgziarz started his collegiate career with two seasons at Johnson County Community College, where he averaged 12 points per game as a freshman and 19 points as a sophomore. He transferred to Central Missouri for his junior season and appeared in all 30 games, with four starts and averages of 4.7 points and 1.6 rebounds.
Entering Thursday’s semifinal against Metro State at the national tournament in Evansville, Ind., Madgziarz had played in 33 games this season. He was averaging 6.3 points as a senior guard for the Mules, who were ranked No. 20 in the nation with a 28-5 record.
“I’ve never experienced winning like we have,” Madgziarz said. “I’ve never been on a team where everyone knows their role and everyone can do something to contribute. We are so well rounded.”
Fellow Johnson County area native Kyle Wolf, who is from Lenexa and attended Rockhurst High School, sees the team’s chemistry as a big asset for the Mules’ success.
“We work well together,” Wolf said. “We all get along, so that helps out a bunch. That’s what takes us to the next step and makes us a great team.”
Wolf, a former Missouri Gatorade Player of the Year, had played in 33 games this season as well, and averaged 6.7 points and 3.5 rebounds prior to Thursday’s game.
“Everyone is enjoying the run,” Wolf said. “It’s not every day you get to go to the Elite Eight. Even as a freshman, I know how big this is. It’s unreal to be in a situation like this.”
It was the third Division II Final Four appearance under UCM head coach Kim Anderson, who led the Mules to their 11th straight season with at least 18 wins. That ties the MIAA record for longest streak in conference history. Central Missouri was 1-2 in previous Final Four games, with the one victory coming in 1984, when the Mules won the national championship.