Minnesota native McKinley Wright IV (Ethn’21) is the All-Pac-12 First Team point guard of the CU men’s basketball team. The 6-foot junior shares his thoughts on toughness, leadership and managing high expectations.
You played most of 2018-19 with a torn labrum in your left shoulder and only missed one game. How did you manage the injury?
It's a testament to my background and where I come from. Toughness. It's been instilled in me since I was a kid. The shoulder hurt, but it wasn't something that could prevent me from going out and playing. Though it popped out a couple of times.
How does it feel now?
I had surgery right after the season. Then five weeks in the sling. After that, I was able to start physical therapy and slowly got my range of motion and strength back.
As the point guard, how do you approach leading this squad?
It's a big responsibility. I'm like the quarterback. I take pride in it. As a freshman, Coach challenged me to become a better leader. I've been taking that on.
What attracted you to CU Boulder?
I was originally committed to a different school, but the coach left, and I reopened my recruitment. Coach Boyle let me know he wanted me, and I put my trust in him. He gave me the keys as a freshman. Seeing this campus and the recruiting class made it easy.
The team chants “family” at the end of practice. How long has that been going on?
Since before I arrived. But now it's like a real family. I've never been with a team that's this connected, that's this close, that loves and hangs out as much as we do. We’re with each other 24/7.
How do you manage lofty expectations?
Colorado expects and deserves a lot. Our focus is to block out the noise and come to practice every day, get better, listen to Coach, ball. He's been around this game. He knows what it takes to win.
What’s your favorite thing about home games?
All the fans. My freshman year, we beat Arizona and Arizona State that same weekend and they both were Top-15 teams. Seeing how many people showed up here, how they supported us, and how loud it was.
I’m a warrior. No matter what the situation is, I’m not gonna give up.”
How often are you in the Events Center working on your game?
I get here at 6:30 [a.m.]. We're on the court at 6:45. I try to make 200 shots before film starts at 7:30. Then we come back every night around 6 or 7. We're here twice a day outside of practice.
What’s the greatest challenge for you as a student-athlete?
Time management. I've gotten better since I was a freshman. I came in with so much on my plate.
The NCAA eventually will allow student-athletes to profit off their names, images and likenesses. Does this affect how you view college sports?
I’m excited that there's change coming. Guys where I'm from want to play college basketball. Everybody has dreams. When they get to college one day, and they're able to get some money, that's huge.
Tell us about your own family.
I was born in Minnesota. But I moved around. That ain't been easy. My dad went to prison when I was 8 years old and got out when I was 18. I wouldn't say I grew up without a father figure because I'd talk to him and he was there with me in spirit through the phone. And now my dad's back, my family is back together. That's just how God works. He's amazing. Now my parents get to see me play.
When you’re done playing basketball, what would you like to be?
A sports analyst. Or a coach. I want to stay with basketball for my whole life.
Who is your favorite NBA player?
Damian Lillard. He wasn't recruited high, and I was originally a mid-major recruit. Dame is humble. He works hard. I got to meet and train with him over the summer.
In the offseason when you have free time, what are you up to?
I play Fortnite. See movies. NBA 2K, Madden. I'll get in the gym. That's really it. Basketball. Kick it with my friends and family. Just do me.
What would fans be surprised to learn about you?
I'm a warrior. No matter what the situation is, I'm not gonna give up. I've come a long way, from struggling to eat to going to China to play. All because of basketball.
Photos by Glenn Asakawa