At the outset of the preseason, Colorado men’s basketball coach Tad Boyle noted one overlooked drawback of not playing any exhibitions or closed scrimmages this fall due to coronavirus concerns was the possibility his team might not experience live officiating until the season opener.
Boyle and his staff were able to address that dilemma, securing NCAA referees for a practice session almost two weeks ago. On Thursday the Buffs hosted refs at practice once again, and with the Nov. 25 season opener against South Dakota now less than a week away, the little details of every workout are beginning to take on greater meaning.
“It’s really good for our players to understand what’s a foul, what’s not a foul. We’ve got some guys in practice that are fouling too much,” Boyle said. “Our coaches are coaches. They’re not officials. They do the best they can in terms of officiating practice. But sometimes things get heated.”
Having officials step in might be timely for the Buffs. Boyle related that one CU player was issued a technical foul at Wednesday’s practice, saying the team’s first technical of the preseason “wasn’t a pretty sight.”
If the ensuing series of punitive sprints wasn’t enough of a learning lesson, the Buffs endured a more hands-on officiating tutorial on Thursday.
“Our guys have to understand officials are part of the game,” Boyle said. “You’ve got to play through difficult times and maybe bad calls or missed calls or whatever the case may be. I wish we could have officials in more often but it’s a commitment they have to make, and testing protocols that they have to go through. We’ve done it once. We’re going to do it again tomorrow a then hopefully we’re ready to go next Wednesday.”
While it didn’t occur as usual over the summer, for the sixth time in 10 seasons Boyle watched one of his players get selected in the NBA draft, with Tyler Bey going in the second round (36th overall) to Philadelphia, which immediately traded Bey to Dallas.
Boyle could watch another Buffs player get drafted next year, with McKinley Wright IV hoping a big senior season at CU will bolster his NBA credentials. Wright is looking to forge a path similar to the one taken by former Oregon guard Payton Pritchard, who won the Pac-12’s Player of the Year honor as a senior and played his way into getting selected 26th overall by Boston in Wednesday’s draft.
Wright explored his NBA draft options this past offseason, but he generally isn’t listed among any of the early mock 2021 drafts. Yet recent former Buffs like Derrick White and George King didn’t have that sort of consideration either heading into their senior seasons, and both ultimately were drafted.
“The thing I really appreciate about McKinley is his maturity level, his self-awareness, his understanding of the marketplace, if you will, and not getting caught up in the hype and letting his ego sometimes get in the way,” Boyle said. “McKinley is a very self-aware young man, self-aware player. I believe in my heart that he’s an NBA player and his day will come. Tyler’s just came a year earlier given his situation.
“But look, I thought Josh Scott was an NBA player, and he didn’t hook on in the NBA but he’s had a very successful career overseas. He’s in Japan now making a lot of money and enjoying life. You just don’t know the journey that every one of your guys that comes through your program when they leave, where that’s going to take them. The one thing I do know — McKinley Wright will make money playing the game of basketball for a living.”
For the second consecutive season, Wright was named to the preseason watch list for the Naismith Trophy as the player of the year. Five other Pac-12 players made the 50-player list — Stanford’s Oscar da Silva, Arizona State’s Remy Martin, USC freshman Evan Mobley, UCLA’s Chris Smith, and Stanford freshman Ziaire Williams…The Pac-12’s 10 overall selections in Wednesday’s NBA draft was the second-most from any conference, trailing only the SEC’s 12. The Pac-12 and SEC tied for the most first-round picks with six.