Lone senior Wise a winner

It was a 60-minute drive from the house in suburban Pittsburgh to the gym in Monaca.

Close enough for a high school sophomore to attend AAU practice twice a week, too far to travel every day after school.

So if Brenna Wise couldn’t come shoot, then John Miller decided he would bring the shooting to her.

Miller, a western Pennsylvania coaching legend with two successful coaching sons, Sean and Archie, packed up a truck with one of his shooting machines and headed south.

An hour later, Miller and the machine arrived at their destination with simple instructions.

“Keep it in your garage, roll it out and you’ll be fine,” Miller said. “Just have a long extension cord out.”

For the next three years, that’s exactly how it worked. The shooting machine sat between the two cars in the middle of the garage every night and out it came every day and every evening, often until very, very late in the evening.

“I was out there shooting shots from everywhere on the floor because then I didn’t need a rebounder,” Wise recalls. “That’s half the trouble, having a rebounder, so that thing would be on at 11 o’clock at night sometimes, and my dad would be like, ‘Look, we have neighbors. You need to come inside.'”

She would temporarily succumb to the necessary circadian rhythms, only to return to the machine as soon as possible and work through a binder created by Miller.

“He gave me this book, and it was how many 3s did you make out of so-and-so? How many 2s? How many free throws? How many right-handed layups, left-handed layups, crossovers?” Wise said. “He had this whole stat sheet for me. Each day I’d go in and check and check and keep track. Eventually, I got to see progress. That continued to make me hungrier and go back.”

You might say that Miller created a monster, but the monster was already in existence. It only needed to be fed.

***

Competitive, committed, confident, aggressive, selfless, one of a kind.

Whether it’s a teammate, a coach or her dad, these are the words used to describe Brenna Wise.

Any and all apply to the lone senior on the roster for the Indiana University women’s basketball team, who will be the focal point of Senior Night at 6 p.m. on Thursday against Nebraska at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.

However, those things were also true long before donning the candy stripes was an option.

Stu Wise remembers it like it was yesterday. Brenna was 6 years old, playing co-ed soccer, and there was no slowing her down.

“She scored 18 goals in a game, just ran over some of the other little boys and girls,” he said. “She has always been a hard-charger.”

With a brother three years older, it was a necessity for Brenna.

“I was super competitive as a kid, and I think that’s because of my brother,” she said. “Every kid wants to play, and if I wanted to play, I had to be just as good. I had to hold my own and compete, because my brother had no mercy for me — none.”

That competition was honed in the driveway with games of one-on-one, even two-on-two with Stu and stepmom Lisa joining in. It was a place where tears were shed and life lessons learned, like how to be both a good loser and a good winner, as well as the need to give as much as you take.

“Ryan, my brother, always wanted me to rebound for him, and I was like, ‘You’ve got to rebound for me, too. This is a two-way street,'” Brenna said.

A street that led to a Division I basketball scholarship.

• • •

Attending the University of Pittsburgh, less than 30 minutes from home and that shooting machine, was a dream come true. Being named a team captain for the Panthers as a freshman was almost too good to be true.

“That experience was incredible,” Brenna said. “I was fortunate enough to be close to home, to be in my hometown that I’m so proud of and will forever call home. I love Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh has given me everything that I could imagine, the platform I wanted at the University of Pittsburgh and just to know that if I had a rough day I could go home or (my dad) would be there at midnight to rebound for me was super comforting.”

The 6-foot forward averaged 10.7 points and 7.6 rebounds per game to make the All-ACC Freshman Team at Pitt, then followed that up with 14.3 points and 6.4 rebounds per game as a sophomore. Brenna was also on the ACC All-Academic Team both years, but with the team winning just 13 games each of those seasons, something was missing.

“It was hard for her to leave that behind, as the poster and face of the program,” Stu said. “But she said, ‘I want to go somewhere at the highest level possible and achieve more than here.’ She was willing to leave personal records behind there.”

It was a high risk, high reward situation, but the same competitive drive that fueled Brenna to score goals on the soccer field, to acquire a key to her high school gym or ask for a shooting machine in the driveway wouldn’t allow her to be satisfied now.

“You never know if the grass is always greener — that’s the risk,” Brenna said. “I’m fortunate and very grateful for my experience at Pitt, however, I had higher goals and higher expectations for myself. Everybody says they want a challenge, but I wanted that challenge. And it’s hard. When you really want to be challenged, there’s no fun in being challenged, but it’s the outcome after that you’re truly satisfied with.”

The transfer options were plentiful, but the Wise’s focused in on the Big Ten with Indiana, Michigan and Ohio State the final three choices. The Buckeyes were the in-house favorite — it was closest to home and the next best thing to being at Pitt — but the campus visit to IU and the Kelley School of Business was a game-changer.

“My dad had always told me, ‘You have to chase your dreams. This is your story, and this is what you want to do, and you have to do what you want to do and there’s going to be sacrifices. You’ve got to make sacrifices to get what you want,'” she said. “As cliche as it sounds, you do have to and you have to be willing to give up things to achieve things. I was lucky enough that I found a place that feels like home being six hours away from home.

“… The minute I stepped on campus here, these were real people. These were people who were going to make me better, who I would enjoy being around.”

That didn’t make sitting out a season any easier, even with Notre Dame transfer Ali Patberg alongside to share the experience.

“There were some tough, tough growing pains that first year, when you’re stripped of something that you love,” Brenna said. “I love to compete and to not be able to compete for a year, that’s a sacrifice, but a sacrifice I had to make to compete at the highest level that I wanted to and to achieve an academic degree that is renowned and I’m super proud of. I’ve learned a lot about myself in the process, and if I wouldn’t have ever left (Pitt), I wouldn’t be where I am today.”

• • •

IU coach Teri Moren likes to say that Brenna Wise never has a bad day.

“You can count on her every single day to come in and be the same,” Moren said. “She just has an energy that is contagious and resonates in that locker room with her teammates. She’s a special person, not just a player.”

Wise, however, is human. She does have bad days, but the way in which she handles them is what makes her extraordinary.

“It’s hard to have a bad day here, but everybody does have a bad day,” she said. “It’s what you do with that bad day though. It’s how you view that bad day. In the grand scheme of things, my bad day is somebody’s dream day. So if I look at it like that, it’s all in your perspective and how you see things.

“Of course I’m going to have bad days, but if you don’t have bad days, you can’t enjoy the good days, and I believe that. There are certain things that make the bad days all worth it, and it’s not just winning, it’s not just championships. It’s when you travel on the road and have conversations at dinner with your teammates, or it’s shooting in the gym with your coach while you listen to music. It’s locker room conversations, it’s dialogue and getting dinner. Those are the things that make it all worth it.”

This season has been a test of that belief, as Wise is averaging a career-low 8.3 points and 5.8 rebounds per game. Her 3-point shooting is down from 41 percent to 33 percent, while her free-throw shooting has dropped from 91 percent to 74 percent.

Patberg says you’d never know it.

“She has not changed at all. The way she carries herself, her attitude, nothing has changed,” the redshirt junior point guard said. “(Brenna)’s still confident. We’re all still confident in her, as we should be, because she can shoot the ball, no matter what her numbers say.

“She’s been awesome, the best teammate I could ever ask for. She’s there for everybody, she’s everyone’s biggest cheerleader. I personally don’t think her role has changed in that aspect at all.”

Good day or bad, what Wise has been for the Hoosiers since she set foot on campus is a leader. She is currently roommates, and occasionally mom, with sophomores Grace Berger and Aleksa Gulbe.

Berger is an introvert to Wise’s extrovert.

“Yeah, opposites attract, so it works out nicely,” Berger said with a smile. “She does all the talking for me, and I can just kind of sit there.”

Jokes aside, the admiration is real.

“She’s a really special person,” Berger said. “Off the court she’s a great leader for us and cares about all of us and helping each and every one of us. Then on the court, just the experience she has. You can always trust Brenna out there to make the right decision, make the big defensive play, all of that. Having her on the team has just been so valuable for us and meant so much to all of us.”

Perhaps there is no better illustration of Wise’s pursuit of excellence and ability to pull others with her in the process than her attendance at an IU football game in November of 2018.

Wise and Patberg, both going through I-Core classes at the Kelley School, were at Memorial Stadium to watch the Hoosiers host Maryland with finals a month away.

“If you want to do well, you have to start studying really, really early,” Patberg said. “Well, Brenna, I kid you not, as the game was going on, she was literally on her quiz list studying.

“I was like, ‘Brenna! Take a break. This is your break, relax.'”

Yet, no sooner were those words spoken than the second-guessing began.

“Right there, I’m like, ‘Dang, should I be studying?'” Patberg said. “That’s where she pushes me to be even better in everything. There’s nothing that she doesn’t give her all or give her best.”

• • •

The future is wide open for Brenna Wise, one of the final 11 candidates for the Senior CLASS Award. A double major in marketing and professional sales with a GPA just under four, the business world is waiting with open arms. There is also the potential to play basketball professionally abroad, but there’s another choice that is taking precedence.

“I would love to be a coach,” she said. “That’s my next path, my passion, and just like I’ve always chased basketball my whole life, I’m going to chase being a coach.”

That pursuit will begin with the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association’s “So You Want To Be A Coach” class April 2-4 in New Orleans, but with one condition.

“Well, that’s a second option,” Wise said. “It’s during the Final Four, so it is a backup option. Right now I’m still planning to be at the Final Four in uniform, not at a conference.”

You’d expect nothing else from a young woman who used to sleep with a basketball on the pillow next to her, dreaming of what she could accomplish.

“If we go back to those driveways and shooting machines and shooting sessions, you envision making those game-winning shots, you envision being in big-time moments, you work so hard for all of that and I’m now at a place where those are real,” Wise said. “All that hard work has paid off. Everybody’s hard work has paid off. (The experience at Indiana) has exceeded my expectations, but my expectations are high this year, so I want to exceed those as well.”

6 comments

  1. Brenna is the ultimate teammate! Her play on the court is exceptional. If you ever question her desire to succeed, just watch her go after an offensive rebound. Her hustle and determination is something all players should emulate! While not a high scorer, the inspiration she gives those around her is unmatched by others! What a great addition she has been for our program. Go Hoosiers!!

  2. Another reason among several why B.W. and the IU Ladies basketball team are so easy to cheer for.

    In games I have noticed besides the scoring, taking the offensive foul charge, rebounding…When going for a rebound B.W. has really good hand strength.

    Have to really like the final 4 destination comment by B.W.

    Yes, B.W. is INSPIRATION

    Congrats to a stellar young lady and college career both, in basketball and academically.

  3. Brenna Wise is such a great person and leader, as a captain of the team is and gives what you would expect. The Final 4 comment is not an exaggeration in her mind. Her shooting has been a bit off from last year but who knows what might be in store if she gets hot now. No matter what Im happy IU has had her for these two years.– Best wishes to Brenna here and beyond.

  4. Have someone black out the names and read this article. Is it about a male or a female? You can’t tell. But it is clearly about a superior athlete! This is exactly why Title IX was so important. Thank you Brenna Wise for all that you have given to Indiana University!

  5. Early this season when this team was rolling, Brenna , Jaelynn , and Ali were hitting 3’s and Mac was starting to come on, in more than one interview we heard Brenna say these words ” we have so much balance we can be a hard team to beat” . More recently their shooting has cooled off especially Wise and Penn. That has been a missing ingredient , no reason that magic cant be sparked again. In the double header last night with NW and Mary. the talk during and after was mostly NW, Mary. , and Iowa and IU was just an after thought. That is dangerous thinking especially if IU can capture that early season magic once again. Go IU!!!

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