His college basketball career is nearing its end, so Brian Rohleder is getting a lot of questions about his five years at Kansas State.
Rohleder, a senior guard, joined the Wildcats out of Bishop Carroll as a walk-on under Frank Martin and leaves them as a scholarship player under Bruce Weber. He has been to the NCAA Tournament, he has celebrated victories over ranked opponents, he has suited up for the scout team and he has scored exactly two points in all four of his active seasons.
Many wonder about his favorite play, victory, coach and moment. More than anything else, people want to know one thing: Was it worth it?
Most college basketball players work hard behind the scenes so they can take center stage on gameday. Rohleder never got the reward, logging 147 minutes of playing time and one start, paying his way to school for four years before earning a scholarship in June.
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“The daily grind, it can really wear on you,” Rohleder said. “But I know about a month down the road, once this is all over, I am going to say, ‘Man, I wish I could go back to practice and step on the floor in front of a big crowd again.’”
K-State’s final home game of the regular season at 7 p.m. Wednesday against TCU will have special meaning for Rohleder. Not only will it be his final game at Bramlage Coliseum, it will be one of his final organized games of any kind.
Fellow seniors Justin Edwards and Stephen Hurt want to play professional basketball next year. They don’t know when or where they will begin the post-basketball stage of their lives, but they are dead set on continuing to play the game they love. Brian Rohleder has the same desire, but has a different career path in mind. He already has a job lined up in Wichita with Koch Industries, where he will work as a design and project engineer.
He wants to go out with a win.
“I love basketball and I love being part of a team,” Rohleder said. “I love doing whatever I can to help my team win and that is the most important thing. Doing what I love and trying to help my teammates reach a goal, that has been the funnest part of all this.”
His teammates will be sad to see him go. Though Rohleder’s career achievements won’t fill up a highlight video — he rates taking three charges against Savannah State as a junior as his top on-court memory — his attitude in practice will be remembered.
No one tried to take more charges or pushed teammates harder. All the while, he twice earned first-team academic honors from the Big 12.
“He is one of the hardest working guys,” Hurt said. “He is one of the first people here, the last people to leave. He is a great leader.… He has done a fantastic job. Even though he hasn’t played as many minutes, he still contributes to our team as much as anyone.”
That is why Weber called Rohleder into his office last June and asked him to turn down a summer internship and to become a scholarship player.
He needed an extra leader.
“Every day he comes with great energy,” Weber said. “He works his tail off. He is a great example for that. He is a great student-athlete, role model. He has been a leader for every group in the athletic department, he is always involved with something and in the community. It is great when you have a guy like that come through your program.
“All of the things he has done, he is being rewarded for it. Whatever he does in life, whatever he decides, I know he is going to be successful, because of his work ethic and his drive.”
Rohleder says he will think back to his playing time at K-State and smile during down time at his future job. He has a bright future, but he will miss his time the Wildcats.
Was it worth it? That’s an easy one to answer.
“When you have a lot of students and a bunch of people come up to you and tell you how much they appreciate you,” Rohleder said, “and how much that you mean to the team and the university, it just makes you appreciate what you really have and where you are. There are a lot of kids who would give an arm and a leg to be where I am in a heartbeat. I just try to be appreciative that and all the great experiences I have had.”
The Kansas State basketball team will play five exhibition games in Europe this summer, Weber said.
The Wildcats will head to Italy and Switzerland for 11 days in August, playing five games against professional teams. The trip will give K-State’s young roster, which features six scholarship freshmen, additional time to practice and play before the 2016-17 season begins in November.
“We have had this planned,” Weber said.
K-State will kickoff the summer trip by inviting former players to campus for a basketball reunion and alumni game, followed by a scrimmage between active players at Bramlage Coliseum, Weber said. The team will then fly overseas for a week and a half of games. Weber thinks it will be a valuable experience.
College basketball teams are allowed to travel overseas for exhibition games once every four years. This will be K-State’s second foreign trip under Weber. He coached the Wildcats in Brazil before the start of his debut season in 2012.
Kellis Robinett: @kellisrobinett