Jeremy Papasso/Staff photographer
Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer
It was after a loss at Arizona State on Jan. 27 that Namon Wright admitted publicly that he hadn’t been feeling 100 percent in recent weeks.
After that night Wright started to feel better, yet given he had been dealing with the on-again, off-again affects of an illness for several weeks, it was decided that Wright needed to lay low and recover in order to be full strength for the stretch run of the season for the Colorado men’s basketball team.
After missing two games, both CU victories, Wright is set to return for the Buffs Sunday Pac-12 Conference battle at home against Stanford (2 p.m., Pac-12 Network).
“I felt my worst during the Arizona game, and then we had Arizona State on Saturday,” Wright said. “But then that following Monday, I felt good. So I’ve been feeling good for 10 days now. I was sick during Arizona and Arizona State.”
Wright, the Buffs’ third-leading scorer at 11.1 points per game, went 4-for-4 during the first half of that loss at ASU before finishing with 10 points and six rebounds.
In the two previous games, however, as Wright struggled with the onset of the flu, he also struggled on the floor. In a loss at Arizona on Jan. 25, Wright managed to play just 10 minutes while scoring four points. A game earlier in a home loss against Washington, Wright was held scoreless for the only time this season, going 0-for-3 with only one rebound in 22 minutes.
Those subpar showings came after a run in which Wright scored in double figures in five of six games, averaging 14.7 points while shooting .516 overall (33-for-64) and .458 (11-for-24) on 3-pointers during that span.
To his credit, Wright blamed the scoreless performance against Washington not on his illness but on “me having a bad game.” And while a return to the pre-illness form that marked Wright’s offensive production certainly would give the Buffs a huge boost going into their final six regular-season games, head coach Tad Boyle hopes Wright took notes from the bench while CU put together dominant defensive performances in its wins against Utah and Cal.
“We’ve had two of our best defensive performances the last two games, so Namon coming back hopefully from watching those two games from the bench and the sidelines understands that when we guard like we did against Utah, like we did against Cal, we’re going to win games in this league,” Boyle said. “We’re going to have to do the same thing against Stanford. Stanford has, in their seven (league) wins they’ve averaged 85 points a game. In their five losses they’ve averaged 68 points a game.
“What that tells me is if you guard Stanford and hold them and limit them offensively and your defense is solid, you give yourself a chance. But if you don’t, they can score with the best of them.”
Given freshman Lazar Nikolic has struggled while replacing Wright in the starting lineup the past two games (1-for-4 field goals and four total points, all against Cal), there is a good chance Wright will be back in the starting mix against Stanford. Whether he starts for the 14th time this season or comes of the bench, Wright just wants to return to a prominent role as the Buffs attempt to assert themselves amid a crowded pack in the middle of the Pac-12 standings.
“I want to be part of the wins. Those two wins aren’t on my belt,” Wright said. “Those wins are nice, but it would be nice if I could put my toe in because that’s what we all play for.”