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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Wise labeled as the new Jason Gardner

    Then-senior guard Jason Gardner passes during the first half in the 73-70 win over Texas on Dec. 15, 2002, in McKale Center. Though current guard Nic Wise hasnt matched Gardners numbers, he may be comparably important to this years team.
    Then-senior guard Jason Gardner passes during the first half in the 73-70 win over Texas on Dec. 15, 2002, in McKale Center. Though current guard Nic Wise hasn’t matched Gardners’ numbers, he may be comparably important to this year’s team.

    All Madden

    Dominique Giovanni Wise will probably never have his No. 13 Arizona men’s basketball jersey retired and hung from the heavens of McKale Center. And making it to the NBA doesn’t seem too realistic for him either. At least not yet.

    But at this stage in his career, Wise is the Jason Gardner of the current Wildcat squad. He’s the littlest guy with the biggest bundle of energy. A sparkplug. A stick of dynamite. A, well, you get the idea.

    First, let’s get one thing straight. Wise is not Gardner as far as statistics go. Not even close. Wise won’t earn 12 All-America honors while at Point Guard U, nor will he score 1,984 career points, dish out 622 assists and have 225 steals like Gardner did as a Wildcat from 1999-2003. Wise was basically a non-factor last year, showing up in 22 games off the bench.

    But with such a depleted Arizona bench this season, Wise has been called on as a sophomore to run the team as the only true point guard. And after all the turmoil the Wildcats have experienced this season (see Olson, Lute and bubble, tournament hopes), he’s responded well. His style of play and the impact he has on the team when he’s on the court is eerily similar to Gardner’s uncanny play.

    Sure, Gardner, one of four former UA men’s basketball players to have his jersey retired, has a college resume that downplays Wise’s tenfold. But sometimes, the only numbers that matter are wins and losses. Sometimes, it’s the impression one individual can have on a group.

    “”He’s as valuable a player as we have on our whole team,”” UA interim head coach Kevin O’Neill said after Thursday’s blowout win at Oregon State, Wise’s first game back after missing seven games with knee surgery.

    The Wildcats went 2-5 over those seven games. They’ve gone 16-8 with him in the lineup and 15-5 with both guard Jerryd Bayless and Wise healthy. But as potent as Bayless is as the team’s leading scorer, Wise is the final layer of wax that makes the team shine.

    “”It’s already been mentioned what we’re lacking without Nic,”” UA guard Jawann McClellan said last week before Wise returned to practice.

    Both Wise and

    My job is to bring the ball up the court and find open players. Then if the ball comes back to me, I can knock down the shot.

    – Nic Wise,
    guard

    Gardner – the latter is currently playing professionally in Germany – are 5-foot-10 point guards with similar traits. They’re the guys quick enough to drive into the lane for a layup if it’s open or kick it out to an open man on the perimeter. They’re the Mapquest of the court, always knowing where each teammate is for distribution purposes.

    Despite averaging 4.6 assists per game, Gardner is and was more of a shoot-first guard, which makes sense when you look at his points-per-game averages: 12.6, 10.9, 20.4 and 14.8 in each of his four years at Arizona, respectively. Currently, he’s averaging 12.8 points and 4.0 dimes per game through 24 games overseas.

    Wise, a pass-first guard, is averaging 8.8 ppg, though he has put up double figures 11 times this season.

    “”My job is to bring the ball up the court and find open players,”” Wise said after his second start Jan. 3. “”Then if the ball comes back to me, I can knock down the shot.””

    Wise does what Gardner did on the defensive side, too. He leads the Wildcats with 46 steals – 1.92 per game. Gardner averaged 56.25 swipes per year and 1.65 per game at Arizona.

    But in the end, it still comes down to wins and losses. Arizona never won less than 24 games in each season that Gardner was a Wildcat, starting in all but one game in those four seasons. And he led Arizona to the National Championship game in 2001.

    Wise, on the other hand, is having his best season during an 18-13 campaign – bad for Arizona’s standards. Gardner’s currently in a similar position, as his German team is 12-12.

    But the best point guards lead their team to victory no matter what the situation is. And as the Pacific 10 Conference tournament approaches this week, Wise will be tested.

    No pressure.

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