Given that Wright led the Buffs in scoring last year, averaging 14.4 points per game, that might sound like a tall order.
But Boyle has big plans for his senior standout — and he just may have the personnel to make Wright an even bigger weapon on the offensive end. If that comes to fruition, Colorado could be a very good team and Wright could find himself in the conversation for some national awards by season’s end.
Almost since the day he arrived on campus, Wright has been the man with the ball in his hands, directing the Buffaloes’ offense. But with redshirt freshman Keeshawn Barthelemy added to the lineup this year, Wright could have the opportunity to play off the ball on occasion, and that would open up scoring opportunities he hasn’t previously enjoyed as the team’s full-time “quarterback.”
It could also give the Buffs maybe the best backcourt tandem they have had in Boyle’s tenure in Boulder.
“Those guys in the backcourt will be able to play off each other very, very well,” Boyle said recently. “One of the things I love about (Barthelemy) is his ability in the open floor. He’s got different gears. He can get from Point A to Point B very quickly — probably faster than any player on our team. If we can get him in space in transition, he’s a dynamic player. He can make plays for himself as well as for teammates.”
Barthelemy landed in Boulder via a piece of recruiting wizardry by the Buffs late in the summer of 2019. A highly sought guard from Montreal, the general consensus was that he would spend a year in prep school before signing a college offer. But the Buffs offered him a chance to spend a year in Boulder developing as a redshirt, and he jumped at the opportunity.
Now, he could give the Buffs a terrific 1-2 backcourt punch, and Wright has become one of his biggest fans.
“He makes my job easier,” Wright said recently. “He has such good vision for a point guard and can make the right plays and get our offense going. It takes some pressure off me to control the team and can give me more opportunities to score the ball as well as my teammates. He’s going to be a huge piece for us this year. We’re going to need him to play big minutes and he’s up for the challenge.”
Boyle noted there are some areas in which Barthelemy needs to improve, including his defense and not speeding too much.
“We just have to get him playing off two feet, not charging and playing under control,” Boyle said. “Keeshawn’s going to be a key for this year’s team.”
REBOUNDS UP FOR GRABS: With the leading rebounder last year in the Pac-12 now preparing for the NBA Draft, the Buffs need to find someone — or several people — to pick up the nine rebounds a game collected last year by Tyler Bey.
Boyle isn’t particular about who does it. He just wants to make sure whoever it is wears a Colorado uniform.
“The biggest thing for me is I don’t want our opponents getting them,” Boyle said. “I don’t care if it’s Evan (Battey), I don’t care if it’s D’Shawn (Schwartz), I don’t care if it’s Dallas (Walton) — I don’t care who it is. It doesn’t fall on one guy, but if I’m Evan Battey and I look at Tyler Bey being gone, there’s nine rebounds a game I can go get.”
Battey, who was second on the team last year with 5.9 boards per game, said rebounding will indeed be a big focus for him this year. But Boyle would love to see some of his teammates improve their numbers in that area as well.
“That’s one area I encourage our players to be selfish,” he said. “I don’t want them to be selfish in any other aspect of their game other than rebounding the ball. Evan is one guy, but it’s multiple guys and right now I can’t tell you who it’s going to be.”
ELIGIBILITY RELIEF: The NCAA Division I Council last week passed legislation that basically means this basketball season will not count toward a player’s eligibility in both men’s and women’s basketball.
Thus, CU’s basketball players will now have the opportunity to play five seasons within a six-year span rather than the typical four seasons in five years.
Whether schools choose to extend scholarship offers another year will be left up to individual schools. It also isn’t known yet whether there will be at least a one-year exemption on roster limits for schools that allow seniors to return for a fifth year. That exemption, which has already been awarded in football, would allow programs to continue to recruit at their regular pace and not be hampered by a 13-scholarship limit.
Meanwhile, however, Boyle — and all other programs — can take advantage of the ruling by playing freshmen this year without having to worry about “burning” a year of eligibility. Freshmen who Boyle might have considered redshirting can play this year and not use a year of eligibility.
“It’s a very, very fortunate situation for our players given the unfortunate nature of covid and not being able to play with fans in the stands and those sorts of things,” Boyle said. “For redshirt candidates, they may be struggling in November, but they may be starting by the time February comes around. That gives them real incentive.”
It will also give the Buffs more options in terms of depth should they lose players to a positive virus test at some point in the season.
DEFENSIVE STOPPER? Boyle said junior guard Eli Parquet, who started seven games and played in 30 last season, “worked as hard on his jump shot as any player we had over the last offseason.”
Parquet took just 65 shots from the field last year while shooting 38.5 percent.
But what Boyle truly wants from Parquet is a commitment to defense.
“We have McKinley, who I would consider a defensive stopper,” Booyle said. “We need a second defensive stopper. Is that going to be Keeshawn? Is it going to be Eli? Is it going to be one of the younger guys? Is it going to be D’Shawn? I think Eli has the ability to be that lockdown defender and a guy who can make open shots, can make a play off the bounce. We know how athletic he is. But defensively, he can be a game changer if he chooses to be.”
MORE PRACTICE SCRIMMAGE TIME: Under normal circumstances, college teams are allowed two exhibition games or closed scrimmages (or one of each).
But given circumstances caused by the covid pandemic, the Buffs will play just 27 regular-season games instead of 30 or more, and those “warmups” won’t be available.
Also limited will be games against teams from smaller conferences. The Pac-12 will play 20 league games this year (as opposed to 18 in past years), leaving CU with just seven non-conference games, roughly half of what they have had in past years.
It means Boyle will put his squad through more 5-on-5 scrimmage situations in practice than he has in years past in an attempt to create more game-like situations.
“We’ve played more 5-on-5 in the first four or five days of practice than we ever have,” Boyle said. “We have to get in game-type situations in practice. It’s imperative that our players mentally approach those scrimmages in practice like they would an exhibition game or a closed scrimmage against somebody else. That’s easier said than done because it takes mental toughness and focus to do that.”
To maintain that focus, Boyle hinted he will increase the rewards and consequences for the winning and losing teams in the scrimmages.
“We have to do a lot more 5-on-5 and put our guys in game-type situations that have impacts on them,” he said. “So the penalties for not executing something in practice needs to be a little bit more severe and eye-popping … The rewards or the consequences need to be grown in value.”