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Rooney: McKinley Wright IV letting play for CU Buffs contradict ongoing national snubs

Guard left off watch lists for Wooden, Naismith awards

BOULDER, CO - Feb. 8, 2021: ...
BOULDER, CO – February 8, 2021: Colorado’s McKinley Wright IV shoots between Oregon State’s Gianni Hunt and Warith Alatishe during the Oregon State at Colorado men’s basketball game in Boulder on February 8, 2021.(Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

BERKELEY, Calif. — Snubbed again.

On Thursday, hours before Colorado posted an impressive McKinley Wright IV-led road win at Stanford, organizers of the Naismith player of the year award announced its 30-player Midseason Team.

Wright wasn’t included.

Wright took yet another snub in stride and provided his feedback on the floor in emphatic fashion against the Cardinal, falling just one rebound and one assist shy of joining Chauncey Billups as the only players to post a points-assists-rebounds triple-double in CU history.

It has been a familiar refrain for a player who has taken his already-impressive game to an entirely new level as a senior. Wright didn’t receive a single vote in the AP preseason All-American tally. Arizona State’s Remy Martin, another senior guard, was a first team selection. Any reasonable statistical breakdown of the two Pac-12 guards’ careers would give the nod to Wright, and certainly there is zero justification for the wide gap between Martin’s first team honor and Wright’s complete lack of attention.

In early January, the Los Angeles Athletic Club, organizers of the Wooden Award, announced its 25-player midseason watch list. Again, no Wright. You’d think the folks at the Los Angeles Athletic Club might have watched a few more Pac-12 games this season. It is, after all, the league Wooden coached in.

So, to recap, the Naismith organizers don’t believe Wright is among the top 30 college basketball players in the nation. He isn’t a top-25 player according to the Los Angeles Athletic Club. Moreover, among the 10 finalists for the Cousy Award as the nation’s top point guard — which, mercifully, actually included Wright — all of the other nine are among the Wooden midseason finalists. Eight of the other nine are on the Naismith midseason list.

By that logic, those who bestow those two national player of the year awards believe Wright is only the ninth or 10th best point guard in the nation. Please.

On Saturday night at Cal, Wright was expected to clear an unprecedented milestone. After grabbing nine rebounds at Stanford, Wright needed just two more boards to become the first Pac-12 player, and just the 10th men’s college basketball player overall in the past 35 years, to compile at least 1,600 points, 600 assists, and 600 rebounds in his career.

Sure, that list would be longer if not for the proliferation of early entrees into the NBA draft. Even so, CU coach Tad Boyle noted Wright is in a class by himself — in CU lore, as well as in Pac-12 history.

“Usually you say he’s in elite company. He’s at an elite level and there’s no company with him,” Boyle said. “He’s the only one in the history of the Pac-12 to do that. Granted, a lot of the great UCLA players played when freshmen were ineligible. And we’ve had some one-and-dones here in this league as of late. But you think of all the four-year guys that have come through the Pac-12, and (there’s) nobody. He’s in a category by himself. That says it all. And the kid’s been doing it since his freshman year all the way through his senior year. Through injuries, he’s toughed it out. I’ve said it before — he’s a once in a lifetime player to coach.”

While the Cousy Award still is in play for Wright, his most viable option to be recognized nationally for his remarkable career is to keep winning games. A regular-season title in the Pac-12 remains in play, and his first date in the NCAA Tournament is getting closer to reality.

Chances are, Wright would rather rack up wins in the conference tournament and NCAA Tournament than take home the national awards that are ignoring him anyway.

“I’m not a guy who looks for his individual stats,” Wright said. “I just want to win basketball games and doing whatever I can. And since I’ve been here, rebounding, assists, and scoring has been part of that. To be able to get 1,600 points, 600 rebounds, 600 assists, the first player in Pac-12 history, it’s a blessing. All thanks to God for putting me in this position. And a big shout-out to my teammates and coaching staff for believing in me. Outside of that, you guys know I don’t care about personal stats. But it is a true blessing and true honor to be the first player in Pac-12 history to do so.”