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Game day notes: Coming soon to CU men’s basketball, the McKinley Wright IV Award

Buffs begin week ranked 11th in NET

Colorado guard McKinley Wright IV could break the program's all-time assists record at Utah. (Photo by Simon Asher / Arizona Athletics)
Colorado guard McKinley Wright IV could break the program’s all-time assists record at Utah. (Photo by Simon Asher / Arizona Athletics)
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Coming soon to the Colorado men’s basketball program: The annual McKinley Wright IV Assists Award.

When he took over at CU 10 years ago, head coach Tad Boyle made a point of naming the Buffaloes’ annual statistical awards, as well as the team MVP award, after the appropriate decorated former CU player. That’s why, every spring, Boyle awards the Stephane Pelle Award to the team’s top rebounder, the Chauncey Billups Award to the team MVP, and the Jay Humphries Award to the Buffs’ leader in assists.

The Jay Humphries Award, however, will soon be part of history. And next year, some CU player yet to be determined will win the inaugural McKinley Wright IV Award.

With Wright on the cusp of surpassing Humphries’ 37-year old team record of 562 assists, Boyle said prior to his team’s date at Utah on Monday afternoon (4 p.m. MT, Pac-12 Networks) that the annual award given to the team’s assists leader will soon be renamed the McKinley Wright IV Award.

Heading into the Pac-12 battle at Utah, Wright needs four assists to match, and five to surpass, Humphries’ team record of 562 assists. Boyle played at Kansas at the same time the Humphries-era Buffs competed in the Big Eight Conference,

“It’s a great feeling. McKinley deserves it because he has been so consistent,” Boyle said. “People forget that (Wright) played the conference portion of his sophomore year with a partially torn labrum in his shoulder. The kid’s toughness and resolve and his ability to just be consistent game in and game out, year in and year out, it’s just amazing to me.

“The other thing I’ll say is he’s breaking a guy’s record who I played against. And Jay Humphries played I think 13, 14 years in the NBA. Was a hell of a player at Colorado. Was a hell of a player in the NBA. He’s breaking a guy’s record who is a very special player not only at Colorado, but certainly throughout his career. He’s breaking Jay Humphries’ record who I’ve got a lot of respect for and I couldn’t be happier for McKinley. One of the things we do I started since I became head coach here is we named the statistical…the rebounding award is the Stephane Pelle Award. The assist award is the Jay Humphries Assist Award. Next year, until it’s broken for years to come, it’s going to be the McKinley Wright Assist Award. That’s pretty cool. That’s pretty special.”

Wright will be the last winner of the Jay Humphries Assist Award, and future winners of the Wright Award will be challenged to repeat Wright’s run as a four-time winner of the honor. Only one other player in Boyle’s 10 previous full seasons has led the Buffs in assists more than once — Askia Booker in 2013-14 and 2015-16.

If Wright matches or breaks the assists record at Utah, it will occur in the 111th game of his CU career. Humphries tallied his 562 assists in 112 games.

Race is on

There still will be 15 Pac-12 Conference games for the Buffs to play following the showdown at Utah. So the league race is far from over.

Yet for the Buffs, a win at Utah will put CU at 2-2 on the road in Pac-12 play, with nine of those final 15 games remaining at home. With a log-jammed pack in the middle of the early league standings, Boyle is aware of the opportunity at hand on Monday.

“I think UCLA, to me, they’ve kind of separated themselves a little,” Boyle said. “They’ve won close games. They won a one-possession game at Utah at home. They won a one-possession game against us at home. They beat Arizona State in overtime. Arizona battled them (Saturday). So UCLA has figured out ways to win.

“I think everybody else in the league, ourselves included, we may have some holes here and there, we may be better on offense than defense or vice versa, but to me UCLA is the team, both offensively and defensively. Obviously losing Chris Smith hurts their depth, but they’ve still got really good players.”

Notable

The Buffs began Monday ranked 11th in the NET and 20th at KenPom.com…CU begins the week still leading the nation in free throw shooting (.856)…Starting guard Eli Parquet has shot 8-for-11 in the past two games and is shooting .579 (22-for-38) this season…Senior Maddox Daniels has gone 3-for-13 on 3-pointers in the past two games…With eight straight losses at Utah, the Buffs haven’t posted a road win against the Utes since a 55-48 victory at the Huntsman Center on Feb. 18, 2012. Andre Roberson had 12 points and 16 rebounds in that game.