LYNCHBURG, VA. — One coaching decision at a school that has nothing to do or isn’t even close to Colorado could change the direction of the Buffaloes program for the next four years.
McKinley Wright IV was locked into Dayton. He wanted to play for Archie Miller. But as soon as Miller left for Indiana, he had a decision to make.
Should I stay or should I go?
Losing the coaches who recruited him led him to start searching for a new home.
Colorado associate head coach Mike Rohn had remembered him from the previous summer. Once the release was known, the Buffaloes pounced.“We had lost two underclass guards late,’’ Colorado coach Tad Boyle told NCAA.com. “We called on him as soon as we got his release. We got a visit. And he saw that he could start from day one and play in the Pac-12.’’
All it took was a genuine sales pitch that he could play and have an impact.
Colorado’s only other choices at the point were to convert wing Dominique Collier to the position or to bring in one of the grad transfers the Buffs were involved with to fill the spot.
“But I told McKinley that I would rather have him as a freshman than any grad transfer on the market,’’ Boyle said.
That may be the single best decision Boyle has made in Boulder.
Seriously. Wright could have that kind of impact.
Wright is a star, right when the Buffs need one the most after finishing seventh in the Pac-12 last season.
He completed an epic comeback against upstart Quinnipiac and first-year coach Baker Dunleavy with a buzzer-beating, rim-bouncing-around 3-pointer Friday night in the Paradise Jam quarterfinal, in a tournament relocated to Liberty University due to Hurricanes Irma and Maria.
Wright was sensational, finishing with 21 points, making 8-of-12 shots, including three 3s. Few players get from one end to the other as quick. It’s rare to see a point guard with built-in leadership skills in only his third game of his career.
Wright said after the game that he told his teammates that he had hit a 3-pointer near the same spot and he was going to do it again.
“I told him I’m going to hit another one, too,’’ said Wright. “It’s amazing (to win a game at the buzzer).’’
McKinley Wright with the game-winner!!!! At the buzzer. @CUBuffsMBB beat Quinnipiac @paradisejam. Tad Boyle said Wright could be best PG ever at CU. Believe him. Wright is special. Speed, grit, pass, shoot and leadership. @Pac12Hoops— Andy Katz (@TheAndyKatz) November 18, 2017
The Buffaloes were down by 13 and Wright was the reason they completed the largest comeback in school history with five minutes remaining.
Boyle threw this lofty tag on him: He will be the greatest point guard to ever play at Colorado.
Wow. The Buffs history, which isn’t rich, does include Chauncey Billups.
“That’s my goal,” said Wright. “Obviously Chauncey is the greatest point guard in Colorado history. I got to chat with him after our last game and he said he liked my game.’’
Sometimes a coaching decision can have collateral damage for one program and a gift for another.
It’s not like the 6-foot Wright didn’t have high school accolades. He was Mr. Basketball in Minnesota out of Champlin Park High in North Robbinsdale, Minn. But he wasn’t coveted by a power conference program.
He is now.
“Dayton didn’t work out and unfortunately the two coaches who recruited me both left,’’ said Wright. “I found a coach in Tad Boyle that believed in me.’’
Wright will be on full display the rest of the weekend in Lynchburg against Drake in the semifinals Saturday and whoever the Buffs play Sunday. He will get tested at Colorado State, New Mexico, at Xavier, against Iowa and in every Pac-12 game the rest of the season.
But the Buffs now have a chance all because of Wright.
“We won this game because this game has a heart of a lion,’’ Boyle said. “This kid is special and made a big-time shot, making a big-time play down the stretch. He’s got toughness, heart, grit and all the intangibles. We know he can dribble, pass, and shoot. But what makes him special is all the intangibles.’’