McKinley Wright IV isn’t the only big-time point guard returning to the Pac-12 Conference for his senior season.
As Wright was making his expected decision to return to Colorado for his senior season official last week, so was Arizona State point guard Remy Martin, whose return for his own senior season gives the Sun Devils a battle-tested point guard to lead a roster welcoming one of the top freshman classes in the country.
The deadline for remaining in the NBA draft pool passed on Aug. 3, and Wright and Martin were not the only Pac-12 standouts who opted to return to school. UCLA senior Chris Smith passed on the draft as well, perhaps cementing the Bruins as the league’s preseason favorite.
With the return of Wright and Martin, the Pac-12 boasts two of the top point guards in all of college basketball. Wright and Martin also are hoping to emulate the path forged last season by Oregon’s Payton Pritchard, who returned for his senior season and earned the Pac-12 Conference Player of the Year honor.
Wright and Martin have authored several memorable battles through their first three seasons in the league, with Wright’s Buffs winning five of their seven matchups. In those contests, Wright has produced a solid advantage in overall field goal percentage (.451 to .376), though Martin has fared much better from 3-point range (.394 to .200).
Oddly, both guards have gotten to the free throw line exactly 26 times in their head-to-head matchups, with Wright owning a slight edge at 19-for-26 (Martin has gone 16-for-26). Wright has recorded an assist-to-turnover rate well above his career average (2.05) during his matchups against Martin, but ASU’s point guard nonetheless has edged Wright in that category (2.19).
Wright and Martin are scheduled to square off just once during the 2020-21 season, with the Buffs slated to host ASU without a return trip to Tempe.
“McKinley is a big-shot maker. We know how good he is in the clutch,” CU head coach Tad Boyle said. “He’s a guy that I feel very, very comfortable when the ball is in his hands, whether he’s shooting it or passing it or whatever. The other thing I think gets lost when you’re talking about him is the fact that he’s a very, very, good teammate. Guys like playing with him and he’s a guy who really makes others around him better.”
Smith, a first team All-Pac-12 selection, led the Bruins in scoring (13.1) and averaged 5.4 rebounds per game. The league is set to welcome back four first team All-Pac-12 selections from last year, the highest total in eight years, and six all-conference players overall, the league’s most in seven years.
One prominent player who isn’t on that list is Washington State’s CJ Elleby. Elleby, who had the potential to be the Pac-12’s top all-around player in 2020-21, was one league standout who opted to remain in the draft pool. Elleby torched CU in what proved to be his final collegiate game, going 6-for-10 on 3-pointers before finishing with 30 points, 10 rebounds, five assists, and three steals in WSU’s win against the Buffs in the first round of the Pac-12 tournament.