As expected, Colorado juniors Tyler Bey and McKinley Wright IV are going to explore their options as to what might come next in their basketball careers.
That does not necessarily mean they have played their final games for the Buffaloes.
A report Sunday in the Colorado Springs Gazette said Bey and Wright would go through the pre-draft process to evaluate their stock for the 2020 NBA Draft, currently slated for June 26. Unless they hire agents, both players will retain the option of returning to school, and the evolving situation with the nationwide scare regarding the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) could cast those pre-draft workouts into further disarray.
Earlier this past weekend, CU head coach Tad Boyle shared with BuffZone.com his thoughts on a pre-draft routine that has changed significantly in recent years, allowing far more flexibility for players to return to school, yet still doesn’t always provide those players with clear-cut answers.
“I think there’s some good things about it, but there’s a lot of things that need to change,” Boyle said. “And there’s been a lot of changes. But I can’t say unequivocally they’re all for the better. I wish there was a way players could get reliable, real information. That continues to be the challenge. And some of the changes that have been made supposedly have helped that, but just the nature of the NBA draft does not lend itself to that. It doesn’t.
“Derrick White is a great example. Now, Derrick White was a senior, he wasn’t an underclassman. But he was a guy when the season was over he was not thought of as a first round draft pick, or maybe not a draft pick at all. And he went to Portsmouth and he had great showcases. Got invited to the combine, played well there. What people don’t realize is Derrick White never had a workout with the San Antonio Spurs. He had a workout with half a dozen or whatever other NBA teams, but he never had a workout with the Spurs. And then the Spurs drafted him in the first round. Now, how does Derrick White know if the Spurs are interested in him or not. He didn’t know until draft night.”
Players have 10 days from after the draft combine, which concludes May 24 in Chicago, to return to school while retaining their eligibility. However, if the NBA remains on hiatus and pre-draft workouts are scuttled, the underclassmen who are less guaranteed a draft spot might essentially be forced to return to school.
Wright would fall into that category. A three-year starter for the Buffs at point guard, Wright’s name does not come up on the most reputable mock drafts. His height (6-foot) and pedestrian career assist-to-turnover rate (1.68), seemingly would work against him in next-level evaluations, as would an average 3-point percentage of .337.
However, Wright is considered a superb perimeter defender, twice earning honorable mention Pac-12 All-Defensive Team honors before landing on the first team last week. His 501 assists ranks second all-time at CU, and his career average of 5.1 assists per game is tied for third all-time. Wright also is a plus rebounder, averaging a career-best 5.7 this past season and 5.1 in his career.
This year, Wright became just the second player in CU history (after Donnie Boyce) to compile at least 1,000 points, 400 assists, and 400 rebounds in his career.
Bey, on the other hand, is projected as a mid-to-late second round pick in most mock drafts. An explosive leaper, the 6-foot-8 Bey was named the Pac-12 Conference Defensive Player of the Year after posting a career-high 48 steals along with 36 blocked shots. His 102 career blocked shots ranks 10th all-time at CU, and he finished his junior season with exactly 800 career rebounds, ranking eighth all-time.
Both players surpassed the 1,000-point mark this past season, with Wright finishing the season ranked 13th on CU’s all-time scoring list (1,370) while Bey is ranked 28th (1,113).
Losing either player would splinter the vaunted recruiting class of 2017, which reached the NIT quarterfinals a year ago but struggled down the stretch this past season, though the Buffs still were in line for an NCAA Tournament berth before the Big Dance was canceled. Bey last year spoke of “unfinished business” when discussing his desire to return for his junior season when his NBA stock was on similar footing as this year. The Buffs’ disappointing finish — including the denied berth to the NCAA Tournament — combined with the uncertain status of the NBA’s pre-draft routine, may conspire to keep Bey in Boulder.
“I love playing with these dudes,” Bey told BuffZone last month, just before CU’s final homestand. “I don’t want to throw a year away for no reason.”