There's no secret to McKinley Wright's basketball wizardry. The Champlin Park senior doesn't have otherworldly natural gifts, although his 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. wake-up 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, showstopping highlight-reel dunks (his alley-oop flush in the Class 4A, Section 5 final against Osseo on 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 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," he said. "The plan is to win."