The Wright file
The lowdown: 6-0 sophomore guard, North Robbinsdale, Minn.
Key stats: 13.0 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 4.8 apg, .494 field goal percentage, .365 3-point percentage.
Strengths: Court savvy, grit, passing skills, defense.
Weaknesses: Turnovers. Wright always will have his share as CU's primary ball-handler, but next year's success requires him to improve on his 1.55 assist-to-turnover rate.
(This is the fifth in a series of nine BuffZone.com profiles reviewing the rotation players for the 2018-19 Colorado men's basketball team.)
A week ago, McKinley Wright tweeted a picture of himself in the hospital recovery room, sharing a sly grin while reassuring Colorado basketball fans with a thumbs-up from his bed.
Sure, that slight grin might have somewhat anesthesia-induced, yet after watching Wright grit his way through the pain it was easy to wonder if Wright was going to jump off that hospital bed to direct the Buffaloes through another offensive set.
Obviously that won't actually happen for a while, as Wright probably will not be up to basketball speed for three months as he recovers from surgery to correct a torn left labrum he suffered at the beginning of 2019. Certainly it helped the injury occurred on his non-shooting arm, but the sophomore point guard's ability to play through pain was a big reason why, to borrow a cliché, his season almost was akin to a tale of two halves.
Through much of the first 16 games of the 2018-19 season, Wright had the look of a player trying to do too much to push his team to victory. Not that he played poorly. During that early span he posted an 18-point, 11-assist double-double in a win against Colorado State, and flirted with a triple-double with 21 points, nine assists, and six rebounds in a win against Illinois-Chicago. Yet with every missed 3-pointer and careless turnover, of which there were plenty, the emotional Wright often let his frustrations show.
Despite suffering the shoulder injury just before Pac-12-Conference play, Wright was in the starting lineup for the first three league games before aggravating the injury with 8 minutes, 8 seconds remaining in the first half of a home loss against Washington on Jan. 12. Wright missed the remainder of that game as well as CU's next game at Utah before returning with a more selective approach.
In the 16 games before the injury hiatus, one source of Wright's frustration was a 3-point shot that stood at just .250 (10-for-40) after spending much of the offseason trying to improve on the .304 mark he posted as a freshman. Wright turned it around in a hurry in the 19 games after returning to the lineup, shooting .438 (28-for-64) to finish the season with a team-leading 3-point percentage of .365 (Senior Namon Wright finished at .382 but played in only 14 games before suffering a season-ending foot injury).
In most areas Wright made progress over his freshman season, improving his overall field goal percentage (.451 to .494) and rebounding average (4.7 to 4.9) while earning first team All-Pac-12 honors. He also was an honorable mention All-Pac-12 defensive team selection and led CU with 39 steals. However, in the department the Buffs probably need Wright to shine the most, his assist-to-turnover rate, he took a step backward.
As a freshman, Wright averaged 5.5 assists per game with a 1.86 assist-to-turnover ratio. This season, his average dipped to 4.8 per game with a 1.55 assist-to-turnover rate. The former number can be attributed partly to the Buffs' struggles at the 3-point line, denying Wright a bundle of easy assists, but his turnover-per-game average jumped from 2.9 as a freshman to 3.1 this year. Wright had been on track to produce a similar post-injury turnaround on the turnover front as he did with his 3-point shot before struggling with turnovers down the stretch, recording at least four in five of the final six games.
With expectations certain to be high going into next season, the Buffs will go as far as Wright leads them. Already a dependable penetrator, facilitator, and scorer, if Wright can continue his late-season clip at the 3-point line while getting closer to the 2-to-1 mark on his assist-to-turnover rate, the sky might be the limit for CU.