At the end of his sophomore season, Colton McCargar talked to the Whitworth men's basketball coaching staff about what he could do to improve.
The 2010 Richland High graduate was told to work on his scoring, which in turn would bump up his minutes.
His hardwork during the offseason has definitely paid off, as McCargar is third on the team in scoring this season. He and the Pirates host Emory University at 7 p.m. today in the second round of the NCAA Division III tournament in Spokane.
“I talked to my coach at the end of last year to set out those goals,” McCargar said. “One of those was to become more of a scorer and to be able to come in and be one of the primary defenders as well.”
McCargar has only started three games this season, but that hasn’t slowed his impact on the court. He averages 27.2 per minutes per game and his scoring and defense haven’t gone unnoticed. He was named recently to the Northwest Conference’s all-league second team.
“It was a pleasant surprise,” he said of the honor. “It was voted on by the coaches. It is a pretty cool honor to have that praise from other coaches. I didn’t expect it at all.”
McCargar has scored in double digits in 18 games this season, including 14 of the last 17. His 21 points against Redlands in the first round of the tournament was his season-high, as he was 8-of-13 from the field. He also grabbed a team-high six rebounds in the game.
His success does not surprise his high school coach, Earl Streufert said.
“For us, he was a guy that was a gym rat,” Streufert said. “He had a nice game, just had to get bigger and stronger. It was just a matter of time with him before he had a great year up there.”
McCargar has steadily improved since his days at Richland, becoming the main scoring option off the bench for the Pirates.
“Last year, I was the first guard off the bench, but only played about 15 minutes,” he said. “This year, I’m playing starting minutes, but come off the bench to bring some scoring and some experience.”
His great year has gone hand-in-hand with a great season for the entire team. The Pirates have won five games in a row since a two-game losing streak in mid-February. Prior to losing in overtime at Whitman College, Whitworth had won 20 consecutive games.
“The main thing is we just have a ton of guys that can score,” McCargar said. “There is no one guy that we need to get the ball to. We really communicate well on defense, getting stops and the offense will go the other way.”
Now, the Pirates are on the cusp of advancing to the Sweet Sixteen for the fifth time since 2009. Whitworth has made the Elite Eight just once in school history, falling to Wooster 76-66 in 2011.
“We just got to take things slowly,” McCargar said. “Take each game one segment at a time. As long as we play complete games, and play our kind of basketball we should be all right and keep moving through the tournament.”