Champlin Park coach Mark Tuchscherer called McKinley Wright a phenomenal player who can do a little bit of everything or a lot of one thing, if needed. But it's the unselfishness of the 6-foot point guard that has led to the Rebels' success. "The thing is, he puts the team first. He’s a really, really good leader," Tuchscherer added. Star Tribune photo courtesy of Carlos Gonzalez • firstname.lastname@example.org
There’s no secret to McKinley Wright’s basketball wizardry. The Champlin Park senior doesn’t have otherworldy natural gifts, although athleticism is a strong suit. He didn’t grow up battling for respect from older brothers or with a coach for a father.
Wright’s passion for basketball springs from within, from a place deep inside that even he can’t trace. He loves everything about the sport, right down to the 5:30 a.m. wakeup calls that start his before-school shooting regimen.
“There’s no trick to getting up,” he said. “I just get up and get going. I just love playing basketball. My trainers push me to be great and they think I can be. That’s what you do if you want to get to the next level.”
The 6-foot point guard has been great all season. He’s averaging 22.9 points, 8.1 rebounds and 7.8 assists per game, all while running the show for the only remaining undefeated team in the state. It’s what makes him the 2017 Star Tribune Metro Player of the Year.
True to his nature, Wright tends to focus on his point guard duties first. He often spends the early portions of a game making sure everyone on the ultra-talented Rebels roster gets into the flow of the game and has a chance to shine.
It’s never long, however, before Wright unleashes his myriad offensive skills: an almost-unstoppable ability to slash to the basket and finish at the rim, show-stopping highlight-reel dunks (his alley-oop flush in the Class 4A, Section 5 final against Osseo Friday brought even Orioles fans to their feet) and his newest specialty, hitting the outside jumper.
“He’s a phenomenal player,” Rebels coach Mark Tuchscherer said. “He can do a little bit of everything or a lot of one thing, if needed. He can do a lot of everything if it’s needed. The thing is, he puts the team first. He’s a really, really good leader.”
Wright said his improved outside shooting, on which he’s spent hours in the gym, is the thing he’s proudest of this season. Once a liability, it’s now one of his biggest strengths.
“I never used to be able to shoot the ball that well,” he said. “Now, a lot of people are paying attention to how good my jump shot has become. I’ve made every team in the state believe I can hit the jump shot.”
Tuchscherer said that, while Wright’s long-range capabilities are to be feared, it’s the other aspects of his game that make him an elite player.
“His all-around game is so special,” Tuchscherer said. “He can be one of the best defenders in the state. And he’s an incredible rebounder. He’s probably the best rebounding guard I’ve ever seen.”
Wright committed to Dayton last summer and signed his letter of intent in the fall. Questions about whether the University of Minnesota was ever a possibility are still common.
“I get asked that a lot. I’ve got a good relationship with Minnesota. They signed a good player in their point guard, Isaiah Washington, and Pitino said he saw us playing together,” Wright said. “But I’m happy to be a Dayton Flyer. They’ve believed in me since my sophomore year when they first started recruiting me.”
There’s still a matter of winning a state championship. Wright and fellow senior Theo John were starters for the 2014-15 team that was undefeated before falling to Apple Valley in the Class 4A championship game. He said not a day goes by when he doesn’t relive that memory.
“I remember that game like it was yesterday,” he said. “It’s the screen-saver on my phone, it’s my Twitter picture. We bring the [second-place trophy] out before every practice. Coach sets it down and makes sure everybody sees it.”
It’s his final high school mission, Wright said, to reverse that outcome.
“Knowing that we’re undefeated, if we lose, it will be disappointing, but that’s not what we plan on doing. The plan is to win and that’s what we plan on doing.”
The metro player of the year was chosen based on nominations from metro-area coaches, conversations with a panel of coaches and staff observations.
2016 Amir Coffey, Hopkins
2015 JT Gibson, Champlin Park
2014 Tyus Jones, Apple Valley
2013 Reid Travis, DeLaSalle
2012 Tyus Jones, Apple Valley
2011 Joe Coleman, Hopkins
2010 Kevin Noreen, Minnesota Transitions
2009 Mike Bruesewitz, Henry Sibley
2008 Anthony Tucker, Minnetonka
2007 Cole Aldrich, Bloomington Jefferson
2006 Bryce Webster, St. Thomas Academy
2005 Travis Busch, Mounds View
2004 Spencer Tollackson, Chaska
2003 Kris Humphries, Hopkins
2002 Kris Humphries, Hopkins
2001 Alan Anderson, DeLaSalle
2000 Adam Boone, Minnetonka
1999 Shane Schilling, Minnetonka
1998 Joel Przybilla, Monticello
1997 Jared Nuness, Hopkins
1996 Khalid El-Amin, Minneapolis North
1995 Nate Holmstadt, Monticello
1994 Sam Jacobson, Park
1993 Skipp Schaefbauer, Elk River
1992 Bret Yonke, Eagan
1991 Brian Carpenter, Minneapolis Washburn
1990 Mike VandeGarde, Bloomington Jefferson
1989 Juriad Hughs, St. Paul Central
1988 Mike Polomny, Park Center
1987 Kevin Lynch, Bloomington Jefferson
Dan Banister, Minneapolis North
1986 Steve Schlotthauer, Mounds View