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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Point Guard U gets Wise as new leader

    At first glance, losing the nation’s No. 1 high school player in Brandon Jennings to the pro ranks of Europe could have been the worst thing to happen to the Arizona men’s basketball team outside of Lute Olson’s retirement.

    A slick-shooting, high-flying, pass-friendly point guard with an explosive personality to match would have offset the team’s youth and helped balance out the scoring between forwards Chase Budinger and Jordan Hill.

    Or if you see the glass half full, you could make the argument that the loss is actually more of a gain, and that junior guard Nic Wise now has the green light to be the team’s floor general.

    “”There’s a whole lot of talk about Brandon (not) being here, but the fact is, he’s not here,”” Olson said. “”And I don’t think that thought goes through Nic’s mind at all. But in terms of pressure, he has a lot more that he has to do for us. There’s no question about that.””

    The transfer of guard Laval Lucas-Perry in December put the Wildcats in a slight pinch last season, as Wise was the team’s only true point guard. And though there are a few freshmen guards who can help Wise now, the junior remains the team’s main source of energy.

    “”That’s what you come to college for,”” Wise said, “”to be that guy and put on a show.””

    Wise averaged 9.2 points and 4.4 assists per game in his breakout season. He got a little bit more experience playing in the summer’s Douai world junior tournament in France.

    Wise was considering a transfer from Arizona in May. He was unclear as to why he wanted to transfer and said the Olson’s return wasn’t a factor.

    Forward Jamelle Horne, who was also contemplating a transfer, said Jennings going to Europe was “”a blessing in disguise,”” giving Wise a chance to return and enjoy the spotlight.

    “”Now Nic Wise can show the true light that he has,”” Horne said. “”He’s a great point guard.””

    But in order for Wise to shine as bright as he and the Wildcats would like, he must stay healthy. The guard popped a bursar sac in his elbow last season and later had surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee last season, forcing him to miss seven games.

    “”In practice situations, he doesn’t like to be taken out,”” Olson said before the season. “”He’s a guy that’s used to playing, and I think it’s hard enough to try to protect him in practice situations as much as we can.””

    Which is what UA interim head coach Russ Pennell has been forced to do. In the preseason Wise rolled his ankle and then re-injured it, and was elbowed in the lane in an exhibition game against Incarnate Word, creating a gash above his left eye that needed five stitches.

    “”I was worried he wasn’t gonna come back but the guy’s a trooper, man,”” Horne said of Wise, who left the game with 7:44 left in the first half and was back at the start of the second. “”He threw a Band-Aid over it, put some Robitussin on it and he got back out there, man. We love Nic Wise. Great guy.””

    Wise comes into the season as one of the Big Three, with Hill and Budinger, as a two-dimensional point guard who can score and distribute the ball well. Everyone recognizes his role as energizer of the team. “”I know Nic had kind of a reputation coming in here,”” Pennell said, “”and I think he’s starting to live up to that.””

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