It was just a few short years ago that Wayne McKinney III was tearing up opposing defenses while dawning Islander green and white for Coronado High School.

And while McKinney has traded in that green and white for some royal blue and white, he’s still doing his thing on the hardwood, but at an even more electric and efficient clip.

In year two at the University of San Diego, former Coronado High School grad Wayne McKinney III has not just been a part of the Torero men’s basketball team; he’s starred for them.

“Everything at USD has been great,” said McKinney. “It’s a new staff, and it’s a new team this season, but I’ve been able to fit in. This is a team with great chemistry, and it’s just been a joy to come here and grow as a player. I’m very excited to be a part of it all.”

While McKinney is incredibly grateful to be a Torero, USD is undoubtedly excited to have had his talents for the past two seasons.

In his first season as a Torero, McKinney was the starting Point Guard, appearing in 31 games, leading the team in both assists and steals, while perhaps most impressively being named to the West Coast Conference’s All-Freshman Team.

And while that first year of success was great, he’s only built on it in his sophomore campaign as he already set new career/game highs in both points and rebounds, all while continuing to play with unmatched explosiveness and defensive capabilities that so many saw even in his days here in Coronado High School.

“It’s the small stuff that’s important, and defense is extremely important,” said McKinney. “Defense is something that I take into account. I love playing defense and locking guys down, and I know not everyone will notice it, but it’s all effort, and it’s something to take great pride in. While on offense, I think I drive on my ability to get downhill. Whether it be in transition, in the half court.”

And while McKinney has continued to play to his strengths in college, it’s obvious to see the strides he has made on the offensive and overall game.

I asked him where he thought he had grown most on the court since coming to USD, to which he told me, “Just doing things like reading the defense, knowing when to kick out and when to attack.”

As of now, McKinney and USD are in the midst of their WCC conference schedule. They seek to play themselves into an NCAA Tournament bid by year’s end, a place the Toreros have not been since 2008.

And while the conference features some top-tier competition like number eight ranked Gonzaga and fringe AP Top 25 team BYU, McKinney is confident that his Toreros can make a deep season, saying, “I think we can make a big push at the tournament. We just need to finish strong and get locked.”

McKinney’s ability and talent are unquestioned, and it’s a primary reason for so much of his success in his first two years at USD. But what separates him from most is the hard work and unmatched work ethic he possesses.

About 30 minutes after USD’s 92-89 victory over Pepperdine last Thursday, when most members of both teams had excited the gym and headed home for the night, there was one player who re-emerged from the locker room with a ball in hand and began putting up more shots. McKinney.

It’s that drive to be great and hard work when no one is watching that will continue to carry the former Islander to even greater heights.

VOL. 113, NO. 3 - Jan. 18, 2023

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