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CU basketball player review: McKinley Wright IV

Buffs’ point guard earned second straight first team All-Pac-12 honor

  Colorado's McKinley Wright IV drives between  Stanford's Spenser Jones and Tyrell Terry,  during the February 8, 2020 Pac-12 game in Boulder.
(Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)
Colorado’s McKinley Wright IV drives between Stanford’s Spenser Jones and Tyrell Terry, during the February 8, 2020 Pac-12 game in Boulder. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

(Note: This is the seventh of a series of player reviews from the CU men’s basketball team for the 2019-20 season).

McKinley Wright IV already is firmly entrenched as one of the best backcourt players ever to don a Colorado Buffaloes uniform.

If he returns for his senior season, CU’s point guard will have a chance to finish his collegiate career among the upper echelon of elite players in CU history. And Wright arguably has not yet played his most efficient brand of basketball in Boulder.

By any measure, it was another standout season for Wright, who earned his second consecutive first team All-Pac-12 Conference honor while also landing a spot on the league’s All-Defensive team. While Wright suffered a dip in his shooting percentages across the board, and his assist-to-turnover rate remains below what should be expected from an elite point guard, Wright was the most important player on the floor for the Buffs throughout the season.

Wright averaged a career-best 14.4 points per game, including 15.2 per game during Pac-12 play. Yet he posted those numbers despite falling short of his previous shooting marks. In overall field goal percentage, Wright dropped from a .494 mark as a sophomore to .448 this past season. Wright also experienced a dip in 3-point percentage (.365 to .336) and free throw percentage (.807 to .792).

Wright’s 5.7 assists per game in Pac-12 games was the top mark in the conference, and his 159 assists overall was the eighth-best single-season mark in team history. Wright now owns three of the top eight single-season assist marks in team history alongside the 167 assists he posted last year (tied for sixth) and the 175 he recorded as a freshman (second). Wright recorded three games with 10 assists, giving him seven double-digit assist games in his career to tie Jay Humphries for the most in CU history.

Wright finished the season with 501 career assists, second all-time, and if he returns next season it will only be a matter of time before Wright eclipses Humphries’ program record of 562 assists. There is room for improvement with the assist-to-turnover rate of 1.66 Wright posted, though it was a slight improvement from his 1.55 mark a year ago.

Always a strong rebounder as a guard, Wright took his glasswork to a new level this past year, grabbing a career-best 5.7 per game. Wright became just the second player in CU history (after Donnie Boyce) to compile at least 1,000 points, 400 rebounds, and 400 assists in his career. Defensively, Wright’s 36 steals left him with 106 in his career, passing Chauncey Billups for 18th on CU’s career list.

Wright was the catalyst in the Buffs’ biggest wins of the season, posting a season-high 29 points with 10 rebounds in CU’s win against Dayton on Dec. 21 in Chicago and producing a 21-point, eight-rebound, five-assist performance in a home win against Oregon. However, like the entire Buffs rotation across the board, there were lapses that proved costly. CU was just 3-3 in games that saw Wright record five or more turnovers, and his final-minute miscues in against Northern Iowa (turnover) and Utah (missed free throw), were key factors in regrettable CU defeats.

Wright finished the season with 1,370 career points, moving into 14th-place on CU’s all-time scoring list. If he returns for his senior year, Wright is likely to become CU’s all-time leader in assists while also moving into the top five in scoring, the top 10 in steals, and the top 20 in rebounding.

Last week, Wright made it official that he will explore his NBA draft options while retaining his eligibility at CU. Given his 6-foot frame and the lack of attention he is receiving in most 2020 mock drafts, there is a strong chance Wright will return to Boulder for his senior season.

Despite losing Tyler Bey to the pros, the return of Wright would likely keep the Buffs in the top third of the Pac-12 while keeping CU in contention for the elusive NCAA Tournament berth that was denied Wright and the Buffs when the tourney was canceled for the first time in history amid fears of the spread of the coronavirus COVID-19.