With a much-anticipated season opener closing in for a much-anticipated 2019-20 season, the noise Colorado men’s basketball coach Tad Boyle insists his team must block out just grew slightly louder.
On Monday, junior point guard McKinley Wright IV was named to the 50-player preseason watch list for the Naismith Award, awarded annually to the men’s basketball Player of the Year. In early February a list of 30 potential candidates will be released, with the 10 semifinalists named on March 5, 2020, and the four finalists to follow on March 17.
The winner will be announced during the Final Four on April 5.
Wright is the fourth CU player to be considered for the honor, with Alec Burks (2010-11) and Andre Roberson (2012-13) getting named to the preseason watch lists earlier in Boyle’s tenure. David Harrison also was a candidate in 2003-04.
The junior has posted two of the top seven single-season assists totals in CU history, recording 175 as a freshman in 2017-18 (second all-time) and 167 last year (tied for sixth). His average of 5.5 assists in 2017-18 is the seventh-best single-season total in CU history. He goes into his junior season ranked ninth all-time at CU in total assists with 342.
Last year, Wright averaged 13.0 points, 4.9 rebounds, and 4.8 assists per game. He shot .494 overall and improved his 3-point percentage from .304 as a freshman to .365 last year, including a .419 mark (31-for-74) from the start of Pac-12 Conference play through the Buffs’ season-ending loss at Texas in the NIT quarterfinals. Wright did all that damage while playing the entire Pac-12 and postseason schedules with an injured left shoulder that required offseason surgery.
Wright was a first team All-Pac-12 selection last year and has twice earned honorable mention on the league’s All-Defensive team. He needs 90 points to become the 35th CU player to reach the 1,000-point mark.
Last month, Wright was a preseason All-Pac-12 selection and also was named to the preseason watch list for the Bob Cousy Award, given to the top point guard in the nation.
Wright was one of five Pac-12 players named to the Naismith watch list, a group that includes Arizona freshman Nico Mannion, Washington freshman Isaiah Stewart, Oregon point guard Payton Pritchard, and Oregon State forward Tres Tinkle.
Wright and the Buffs departed Boulder Saturday for Shanghai, where they open the season Friday night against Arizona State (8:30 p.m. MT, ESPN2) in the Pac-12’s annual game in China.