McKinley Wright played with complete fearlessness over the final three months of the season. Yet he admits the next step of his basketball journey arrives with a fair share of trepidation.
Soon, possibly next week, Wright will undergo left shoulder surgery to repair a torn labrum he suffered at practice nearly three months ago. Wright missed only one full game and played through the injury down the stretch, but his first taste of surgery of any sort has understandably made Colorado's point guard anxious.
"I'm nervous, but I just want to get this over with," Wright said.
Wright suffered the injury in the Buffaloes' first practice upon returning to Boulder after a short holiday break. It was feared he would miss the Buffs' Pac-12-opening series in Arizona that week but Wright started in both CU losses, though the team-leading 17 points he scored at Arizona was balanced by a three-assist, six-turnover effort.
The following week, Wright aggravated the injury in a home loss against Washington, exiting an eventual 77-70 loss with 8 minutes, 8 seconds remaining in the first half. Wright didn't return that night and missed CU's next game, a loss at Utah, but he returned to the lineup in a win the following week at Cal and didn't miss another game.
Along the way, Wright on several occasions was forced to leave games when his shoulder was jolted, yet each time he returned, and such incidents haven't occurred since a Feb. 20 loss at Washington State. Wright played the final 10 games without experiencing another hit that necessitated regrouping on the bench, and on several occasions down the stretch of the season Wright said the shoulder indeed was feeling better.
Wright reiterated that point Wednesday night after CU's season-ending 68-55 loss at Texas in the NIT quarterfinals.
"I'll talk to the doctor, but he said the stronger it is going into the surgery, the quicker my healing process will be," Wright said. "Right now I feel like I'm 85, 90 percent. The shoulder doesn't ever cause me problems out there. The last two weeks I've been practicing without the brace. Going through contact, getting through screens without it. The coaches wanted me to play with it in games still. I listen to the doctors and everything they have to say, but my shoulder's been feeling really good."
Despite the injury, Wright earned first team All-Pac-12 honors, finishing with season averages of 13.0 points, 4.9 rebounds, and 4.8 assists. The sophomore said the expected recovery time from the surgery will be about three months, but he doesn't expect it to hinder his preparation for what could be a promising 2019-20 season for the Buffs.
"I'm super excited," Wright said. "Especially bringing everyone back, adding Dallas (Walton) — someone who can protect the rim for us and finish on the block. It's going to be huge for us. Our schedule, we're going to have a good schedule and we're going to have a great offseason.
"We're older now. We're going to be juniors now, most of us. We know what these games in early November and December mean to get us to the tournament. We're more mature and it's going to be a fun year next year."