Wright's Offseason Work Paying Dividends For Boyle's Buffs
BOULDER — All the long hours in the gym and in the film room over a long, long offseason appear to be paying dividends for Colorado Buffaloes senior McKinley Wright IV.
After five games, Wright's numbers are pointing to career bests in virtually every critical category for a point guard: points, shooting percentage, assists and turnovers.
Wright focused on those areas after exploring his NBA Draft potential. The teams with which he spoke named those areas as points of emphasis. Those discussions, combined with conversations with CU head coach Tad Boyle and his staff, gave Wright plenty of "homework" over the summer, and he attacked the work with his usual vigor and dedication.
Granted, it is early — very early — in the season. Five games is a small sample size. But if Wright continues even close to the pace he has established for himself, he will have the type of numbers that should put him in the conversation for a host of conference and national awards by season's end.
Thus far, Wright is averaging 17.6 points, 5.8 assists and just two turnovers per game (2.9 assist-to-turnover ratio) while shooting .648 from the floor and .467 from 3-point range for the 4-1 Buffs.
Those are all by far the best numbers of his career, in particular the assist-to-turnover ratio and shooting percentages.
The improvement didn't come by chance. Wright spent countless hours in the gym in the offseason working on his shot, and equally long hours studying his turnovers. A CU assistant produced film of every turnover Wright committed last year, and he studied every one of them with coaches, mentors and trainers.
Now, his assists are up, his turnovers are down and his offensive production and efficiency have increased. His scoring average so far is more than three points better than any of his first three seasons in Boulder and his turnover ratio is roughly 50 percent better than his previous best.
"Film was the key for me," Wright said after CU's 91-49 win over Omaha on Wednesday. "Nothing changed but sitting down and watching film. Film is much more key than people may think."
Wright has been consistent throughout CU's first five games, but his numbers over the last two contests were eye-popping. In victories over Northern Colorado and Omaha, he scored a combined 36 points and handed out 15 assists, along with grabbing 10 rebounds and having just one turnover. He also shot 14-for-18 from the floor, including 4-for-6 from 3-point range.
Wright's shooting percentage is a dramatic improvement over past seasons. In his first three years in Boulder, his best field goal percentage was .494, with his best 3-point percentage .365.
Again, it was simply time invested during the offseason. Now the investment is paying dividends.
"I put the reps in this summer, I put the work in this summer," he said. "My coaches believe in me, my teammates believe in me. Coach Boyle wants me to shoot 3-pointers. When you have your coach telling you to shoot more 3s and when your teammates believe in you, it's easy. Just credit to the work I put in and my teammates and coaches believing in me."
Of course, the level of competition gets dramatically tougher from this point on. The Buffs have two non-conference games remaining — a matchup with Washington in Las Vegas on Sunday, followed by another contest at T-Mobile arena Tuesday against Grand Canyon — before a 20-game Pac-12 stretch that starts Dec. 28 at Arizona.
"So far, it's good," Wright said. "But I have to keep it up."
TEAMMATES PITCHING IN: Buffs freshman Jabari Walker was recently "scammed" in an attempt to purchase a video game station and lost his money.
His teammates stepped up. CU senior Jeriah Horne contacted all the other Buffs and they pitched in to buy a game console, then surprised Walker with it before a practice.
CU coaches did not know about the surprise until just a few hours before the Buffs presented Walker with his new console.
"It says everything about the team in terms of their selflessness and how they care about each other," Boyle said. "It's obviously a testament to Jabari and how his teammates feel about him … It had nothing to do with the coaching staff. It was all the players."
UW ON HORIZON: While 1-5 Washington is a Pac-12 member, Sunday's game at T-Mobile, part of the Far West Classic, won't count as a league contest. Still, it should give the Buffs a solid test as they prepare for league play.
While the Huskies have struggled thus far — their only win was over Seattle while losing a pair of league games (Oregon and Utah) — they are still a team with a talented lineup and plenty of potential.
"They have some really talented pieces," Boyle said. "I'm sure Coach Hopkins is trying to meld them together still and they're still looking for a little bit more cohesion. But in terms of just raw talent, Washington's got it. They're long and athletic and they've got some guys that can shoot the ball."
Sunday's game is scheduled to begin at 8 p.m., with Tuesday's contest vs. Grand Canyon scheduled for 9 p.m. Both games will be televised by the Pac-12 Network.