Three years ago, McKinley Wright, Brad Davison and Nate Reuvers left Minnesota as three of the state’s top high school prospects looking to carve successful paths in college basketball away from home.
Through ups and downs, this Minnesota trio have been among the most talked-about players in the game.
Their college basketball journey is coming to end soon, though. As seniors they’ve got just one more shot to make their mark.
“Trying to have no regrets about this year,” said Davison, a Maple Grove native.
For Reuvers and Davison that means leading the Badgers back to the Final Four. For Wright that means proving to NBA scouts he can lead a team to the NCAA tournament.
“We’re excited that even with all of the uncertainty with COVID-19 going on that we at least have a chance to play,” Wright said. “So, we’re going to take advantage of it and compete at the highest level.”
Wright was the Star Tribune’s Metro Player of the Year after leading Champlin Park to a runner-up finish in the Class 4A state tournament in 2017. His recruitment was a whirlwind. He went from being heavily pursued by the Gophers to committing to Dayton to eventually signing with Colorado.
There was a time when Wright saw himself staying home before the U decided to take New York City standout Isaiah Washington. There was a time Wright saw himself playing at Dayton for Archie Miller before the coach jumped to Indiana. But it all worked out just fine for the gifted 6-foot point guard.
“I feel like I made a good decision,” Wright said about his career in Colorado.
After a record-setting freshman year with the Buffaloes, Wright earned first-team All-Pac 12 honors in back-to-back seasons, including in 2019-20 when Tad Boyle’s team won 20-plus games for the second straight year.
A year ago, Wright was picked Pac-12 preseason player of the year and Colorado was a favorite to win the league. After failing to reach those goals, Wright declared early for the NBA draft, seemingly intent on turning pro.
“But the draft had so much uncertainty,” he said. “I just felt like I could come back one more year, keep improving my stock and reach for the same thing next year.”
That’s the mind-set both Reuvers and Davison have with the Badgers competing for a national championship. One of the hottest teams in the country last season, Wisconsin’s hopes for a deep postseason run were tabled when March Madness was canceled.
The Badgers were riding an eight-game winning streak when the Big Ten tournament ended prematurely in Indianapolis. They return all five starters, and have a deep bench that includes three others from Minnesota — Tyler Wahl, Ben Carlson and Steven Crowl.
“We all came back, and we’ve all gotten better,” Reuvers said. “It’s been a lot of fun.”
Reuvers, who led the Badgers last season with 13.1 points per game, was named to the Karl Malone Award preseason watch list for the top power forward in the country. The presence of 6-10 senior Micah Potter in the middle could allow Reuvers, the 6-11 former Lakeville North standout, to continue to thrive facing the basket.
But he wants to become a stronger post threat.
“Anytime you have another year of playing you just continue to learn things,” Reuvers said. “I’ve gotten a lot stronger in my legs. That was something I needed to continue to improve on. … Every year you try to fix [weaknesses], so by the time you’re a senior you’re playing your best basketball.”
After making the Big Ten’s all-freshman team, Davison saw his scoring average drop from 12.1 eventually to 9.9 last season. Injury and switching backcourt roles kept him from a breakout year, but he continued to lead the Badgers with toughness and clutch performances.
In his past eight games, Davison averaged nearly 15 points, which included 20 points in a two-point win vs. the Gophers in Madison.
When Davison and Reuvers left their home state to play for the U’s border rival, expectations were through the roof, with Wisconsin reaching back-to-back Final Fours in 2014 and 2015.
The Badgers saw their NCAA tournament streak end at 19 straight years in their freshman year, but Davison and Reuvers got redemption as co-Big Ten champions last season. They hope to keep the winning tradition going strong as they end their Wisconsin careers.
“I’m fully locked in on this year,” Davison said. “I’m really bought in to maximize the time we have with each other.”