Years ago, during one of his family’s many vacation trips to Colorado, one of Ethan Wright’s AAU coaches encouraged Wright to drop by the University of Colorado basketball offices to say hi to head coach Tad Boyle.
Wright, a 6-foot-4 guard out of Newton Centre, Mass., wasn’t being recruited by the Buffaloes. But he heeded the advice and, indeed, stopped in to shake hands with Boyle.
If all goes according to plan, Wright and Boyle will be sharing some high-fives in the near future.
Added to the Buffs’ roster last week as a graduate transfer from Princeton, Wright is expected to bring a dose of experience to an otherwise young roster while bolstering the Buffs in two areas near and dear to Boyle’s heart, defense and rebounding.
“We’ve taken a bunch of vacations to Colorado. And actually, my mom lived there for a year or two,” Wright said. “I’ve loved the state. Walking to class and seeing the mountains and stuff, it’s next-level. I saw it as somewhere where I could be really happy and live my life.”
Knowing they were in need of a graduate transfer who would likely be the only senior on the 2022-23 roster, the CU staff kept a particular eye on the Ivy League throughout the season, as the conference does not allow graduate athletes to compete in varsity athletics. The Buffs also entered the offseason in need of added frontcourt depth, but the decision by Keeshawn Barthelemy to transfer (he committed to Oregon on Monday) gave Boyle and his staff added flexibility as they sorted through potential fits.
The Ivy League did not compete during the 2020-21 season due to COVID concerns, yet Wright emerged from the hiatus as one of the top all-around players in the conference. Despite his 6-foot-4 stature, Wright ranked fourth in the conference in rebounding at 6.9 per game, adding 14.7 points per game and a .395 3-point percentage en route to second team All-Ivy League honors.
With the status of leading rebounder Jabari Walker still up in the air as he explores his potential stock in the NBA draft, Wright will at least help offset the loss of Evan Battey’s 4.7 rebounds per game. Wright averaged just 3.4 rebounds during his first two seasons at Princeton, albeit while playing significantly fewer minutes than he did this past season, and he credited an 18-rebound game he posted against Minnesota in the third game of the season for boosting his confidence on the glass.
Wright finished the 2021-22 season with six double-digit rebound games.
“I play defense, I shoot efficiently, and I can be a great rebounder. I think (Boyle) liked that about me,” Wright said. “He wants to kind of let me go to try and get offensive rebounds and stuff. We didn’t talk about specific (roles), but they don’t want me to come and just stay on the sidelines. That was another reason I was attracted to Colorado. It’s a unique opportunity. I’ll have to earn whatever I get, but I want to contribute and I think there’s a spot for me to do that.”
Wright said he is looking forward to competing outside the East Coast basketball bubble and also has a brother that attends UCLA. He still has to complete the semester at Princeton — a big burden was lifted from Wright’s shoulders when he turned in his senior thesis on Monday — but he plans to make the move to Boulder and begin workouts with his new teammates in early June.
“That’s the other thing I’m looking forward to, getting to go to all these really cool schools and have these fun road trips and play these historic arenas,” Wright said. “When I play (at UCLA) will be fun. The Pac-12 is a great conference and that definitely was an attractive piece.”