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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Wise deserves to be mentioned with the greats

Just four years ago, a chubby 5-foot-10 freshman point guard wowed fans in McKale Center with his nifty ball handling and gave four-year starter Mustafa Shakur a run for his money at Arizona’s annual Red-Blue Scrimmage.

Though his first appearance in McKale Center recalled Jason Gardner, the last great Arizona small guard, four years later a slimmed-down Nic Wise has created his own legacy.

Wise has undoubtedly placed his name alongside the great point guards that come through a program referred to as “”Point Guard U.””

The senior won’t finish his career with the same statistics or national recognition as the all-time greats, but he is their equal in loyalty to the program and heart.

Some former Wildcats are only recognized as Arizona greats because of their NBA success, but Wise will be remembered by the Arizona basketball program for what he actually did while sporting the Cardinal and Navy.

He has been the definition of persistence since arriving on the UA campus. He came to play under legendary coach Lute Olson for four years, but after his freshman year got Kevin O’Neill, Russ Pennell and current Arizona head coach Sean Miller.

What other Arizona player played under four head coaches?

None.

To describe how hard it would be to play under four different head coaches, Miller’s statement explains it all: “”I wouldn’t have done it.””

When coaches left the program for their next gig, Wise stayed.

When players left for NBA money or transferred to other programs that were more stable, Wise stayed.

When Wise had an opportunity to make a couple grand playing overseas, he stayed.

He could have easily left the program. Everyone would have understood. But instead he stuck through it all, now completing one of most unstable careers in history of college basketball.

Through the three years of uncertainty, Wise was the glue that held the program together while Olson couldn’t decide whether he was in or out.

Sure, Chase Budinger, Jordan Hill and Jerryd Bayless were the go-to guys, but Wise at point guard was just as important to the team as any future NBA star.

Who would’ve played point guard for the Wildcats if Wise had left? Bayless was a hell of a talent, but he surely wasn’t a point guard.

Every year except his first, when he played sparingly behind Shakur, Wise was a key ingredient to each team that continued to make the tournament despite its circumstances.

During his sophomore year, when everyone thought he was too small and wouldn’t see the floor with a big time recruit like Bayless coming in, Wise came in and played well with the current Trail Blazer.

After the season, when Bayless left for the draft, Brandon Jennings was expected to eclipse Wise, whose best bet, everyone whispered, was to transfer.

But when Jennings couldn’t get the SAT score he needed and bolted for Italy, Wise came back and came through for the Arizona basketball program. Wise, Budinger and Hill, Arizona’s big three, created one of the 2009 NCAA Tournament’s best feel-good stories, leading a suffering program to the Sweet 16.

Though Wise’s impact is somewhat intangible, he did have some great moments that Arizona fans will always remember.

Jan. 29, 2009: Wise had a then-career-high 29 points, hitting 14-14 free throws. Twenty of Wise’s points came in the second half of the game, helping Arizona to defeat Washington.

March 20, 2009: Wise tied his career high with 29 points in a first-round NCAA Tournament win against the University of Utah in Miami, Fla.

2009-10 season: Wise hit the game winner at the buzzer against Lipscomb University on Dec. 21. Two days later, he converted a game-winning layup against North Carolina State.

Jan. 31, 2010: Wise scored a new career-high 30 points against California in an exciting first-place game in McKale Center.

Wise’s numbers don’t tell the entire story. The Houston native represents a transition to a new era in the Arizona basketball program.

“”That’s one of the reasons me and coach sat down and I decided to come back,”” Wise said. “”I decided to be the bridge between the old and the new.””

As Wise will fittingly hold the floor by himself as the lone senior on the team, he will get a much-deserved standing ovation on Saturday — and three of his four coaches will attend his senior day festivities.

People may question whether he will ever earn a spot in the NBA because of his size or whether he was vocal enough on this season’s team, but no one can ever question his loyalty to the program.

Earlier this week, when Wise was asked what he wanted to be remembered for five to 10 years from now, this is what he said:

“”Someone that was loyal to the program. I committed here when I was 15 years old and I never wavered, even through the turmoil with coaches and players leaving. Just someone that loved the program and stuck with it through thick and thin.””

For that, he should be remembered.

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