One reason Kam McGusty initially entered the 2021 NBA Draft is because he was already 23 years old and was worried that he would be considered too old by pro scouts if he played another year of college basketball.
NBA scouts told him age was not an issue, that he would increase his draft stock if he went back to the University of Miami, worked on his defense, and proved he could lead a winning team.
He did exactly that on Wednesday night, scoring all 12 of his points in the second half – including nine in a row – to lead the Hurricanes to a 63-58 road win against Penn State in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
Miami improved to 5-3 heading into Saturday’s home ACC opener against Clemson.
McGusty and Isaiah Wong, who had been averaging 32 combined points per game, had only two points at halftime. McGusty got in early foul trouble, spent time on the bench, and came back energized in the second half.
His 9-0 run, which included at three-pointer and a ferocious driving layup, gave UM a 47-45 lead. Veteran point guard Charlie Moore, who is 23 years old, also relied on experience and made some key second-half plays to contribute to the win.
Four Hurricanes finished in double figures – McGusty, Wong (who was battling a sinus infection) and Moore with 12 apiece, and Sam Waardenburg, who made three three-point baskets in the first five minutes and led UM with 14 points.
“That was a terrific road win for us, a really physical battle,” UM coach Jim Larranaga said.
He told the team before the game that he wanted more contributions from the forward and center. Waardenburg took the challenge to heart and opened with a trio of threes to give UM an early lead.
“Penn State did a great job in the second half, thank goodness Isaiah, Kam and Charlie Moore stepped up,” Larranaga said. “It was a great team effort.”
The fact that McGusty got in early foul trouble worked to his advantage in a way, the coach said.
“As it turns out that was a good strategic move because in the second half he was able to generate a lot of the energy while the other guys were exhausted,” he said. “Same with Charlie. Our freshmen Bensley Joseph and Wooga Poplar came in and allowed those guys to rest in foul trouble and that was a key strategic move because those guys played so well in the second half.”
McGusty is off to a great start this season. Going into Wednesday’s game, he averaged 17.6 points and 7.1 rebounds per game.
“Kam is an older senior and somebody who’s very serious about his craft and basketball and being a good player. He works at it,” UM assistant coach Chris Caputo said. “He’s very much in line with a lot of the guys that we’ve had here kind of at his size category and position who were really serious about competing, being two-way players, winning and hoping to have a career after college, playing professionally. So, I think he’s in a good mental space and, going forward, hopefully he can continue that into the ACC (schedule).”
Penn State (4-3) was led by John Harrar, who was 6-of-6 for 16 points and Seth Lundy with 14.