The player who often attacks the basket fearlessly and never is shy about taking a big shot at crunch time was experiencing a rare moment of hesitation.
Colorado point guard McKinley Wright was resigned to his inevitable shoulder surgery when the Buffaloes’ season ended March 27 at Texas in the NIT quarterfinals. Still, Wright had never previously experienced a major injury, let alone surgery. And with his pain level having become manageable, it was natural for Wright to wonder if going under the knife was absolutely necessary.
Despite battling the effects of a torn labrum throughout Pac-12 Conference play, by the time Wright hit the finish line his ailing left shoulder was feeling much better. In fact, other than the occasional twinge while rolling over in his sleep, the pain that sidelined Wright for the Buffs’ Jan. 20 game at Utah and forced him to the sideline to regroup in several other contests had largely receded.
And so Wright sought fresh advice. From his family and mentors back home in Minnesota. From new CU assistant coach Anthony Coleman. And even from Josh Perkins, the Colorado native and star point guard at Gonzaga who endured a similar procedure a year ago. The feedback was nearly universal: Get the surgery.
On April 1, just five days after recording 11 points and six rebounds in the season-ending loss at Texas, Wright underwent surgery.
“Everybody’s advice was to get the surgery,” Wright said. “After I got it, I realized now it was the best thing for me. Now I’m not in any type of pain, and I’ll be able to play pain-free this year. I didn’t want it to affect me this season or my future down the road. Surgery was the best option. ”
Wright, who fought through the pain to earn first team All-Pac-12 honors, recently passed the two-month mark from the procedure, and he is well on his way toward being 100 percent for his junior season in Boulder.
“I’m almost 100 percent healthy,” Wright said. “I’m doing everything with the team except the contact stuff. I’m able to get out and run and play with these guys a little bit. It’s been real good for me. It kind of sucks to sit and watch them and not be able to participate, but I know in the long run it will pay off. I’m doing good.”
Wright, of course, is the engine that drives the Buffs’ attack, and with the team essentially returning fully intact for the 2019-20 season, expectations already are starting to build for a run at the program’s first NCAA Tournament berth since 2016. While Wright’s recovery will prevent him from participating in full contact drills with his teammates this summer, it perhaps is less of an offseason setback for a player that has logged 66 starts already in his CU career than it would have been even a year ago.
As the Buffs dive into their summer workouts with their floor general working his way back from the sideline, Wright keeps harkening back to words head coach Tad Boyle shared after the Buffs were eliminated from the Pac-12 Conference tournament in the semifinals by Washington. From what Wright has seen so far out of his teammates this summer, the Buffs are doing their best to make those words prophetic.
“Coach Boyle wasn’t as frustrated as he normally is after a loss, and he told us this next year is going to be our best one yet,” Wright said. “It’s going to be one to remember. It’s going to be fun. After that loss, we all kind of got together. We know what we want for this program. We know what we’re capable of doing. The expectations are there. We know what we want to do and what we have to do to get there.
“Everybody’s work this summer has been the best work I’ve seen since I’ve been here. Everybody’s in the gym just trying to take their game to the next level so we can reach our goals.”