MANHATTAN, Kan. — With senior D’Shawn Schwartz sidelined at least two weeks after testing positive for COVID-19, the Colorado men’s basketball team has taken a hit to its senior leadership, though point guard McKinley Wright IV is as polished a floor general as there is in the Pac-12 Conference.
Yet early indications are Wright’s backcourt mate, junior Eli Parquet, is ready to make the jump from a talented but inconsistent youngster to a dependable veteran.
Parquet turned in his second solid all-around performance at the Little Apple Classic on Friday, teaming with Wright to provide standout backcourt defense while finishing with a career-high nine points, four rebounds, and a blocked shot in a career-high-matching 36 minutes.
With backup point guard Keeshawn Barthelemy also sidelined due to contact tracing from Schwartz’s positive test, Parquet also took a few turns at the point during the Buffs’ 76-58 win at Kansas State.
“Number one, Eli worked extremely hard in the offseason on his shot,” CU head coach Tad Boyle said. “He’s shooting with confidence now, and confidence is such a big part of shooting. And I told Eli he doesn’t need to hunt for shots. Shots will find him He just has to be ready to step up and knock them down when he gets them. He’s doing that.
“But Eli also understands now his defensive role on this team, which is you’re going to be asked to guard one of the top perimeter players. K-State had two really good guards tonight, so he and McKinley were challenged. And I played the heck out of them. I don’t think I took them out in the second half. Kin plays almost 39 minutes. Eli plays 36 and a half. That’s not a normal load for those guys, but tonight we needed that.”
Parquet shot 3-for-5 in each of the two wins at Kansas State while knocking down 4 of 7 3-point attempts.
Weber on Wright
After his dominant performance against coach Bruce Weber’s KSU Wildcats, Wright earned a new fan in the veteran K-State coach. Wright went 10-for-16 and finished with 24 points — the 19th 20-point game of his CU career — and added five rebounds and five assists.
“I think the second half, obviously Wright was special. I gotta give him credit,” Weber said. “We got into him. We pushed him and made him make plays, and he stepped up and really made plays on both ends of the court. I was really impressed with his defense even. He got into Nijel (Pack) and got into Mike (McGuirl) a little bit and chased him. Kudos to him.”
Through the first two games, Wright has 11 assists against just four turnovers. He surpassed the 1,400-point mark in his career (1,414) and ranks 13th all-time on CU’s all-time scoring list, with Michel Morandais (1,428) and Xavier Johnson (1,463) next in line.
CU went 18-for-21 at the free throw line and is 32-for-36 (.889) through the first two games. Freshman Jabari Walker went 3-for-3 at the line and is 8-for-8 in the first two games of his career…Wright’s 10 field goals matched a career-high he reached twice previously, against Dayton last year and in a double-overtime win against South Dakota State when he was a freshman…Colorado native and Columbine grad Luke O’Brien scored the first point of his CU career on a free throw late in the second half, then notched his first field goal moments later on a nifty feed from senior Jeriah Horne…With Barthelemy out, Colorado Springs freshman Nique Clifford was pressed into action early. While he didn’t score, Clifford recorded two steals in nine minutes…Despite going 1-for-7 on 3-pointers, senior Maddox Daniels matched a career-high with 10 points…The time for next Saturday’s home match against Washington State will be determined after the kickoff time is announced on Sunday for the CU-Arizona football game that same day.