By Tom Nader
Publisher and Editor
Jan. 4, 2022, became a defining snapshot into Ryan Wise’s basketball career.
A junior at the time, he posted a triple-double in a come-from-behind victory over Jackson-Milton that included 17 points, 16 rebounds and 11 assists.
Once the shortest player on the court at 5-foot-3, Wise had grown nine inches after his sophomore season to transform from an undersized point guard to a versatile 6-2 wing.
And while he grew in size, he never lost his small-playaer creativity to finish around the rim. As a shorter player, he once had to find ways to get his shots over, under and around the taller trees in the post.
He also never lost his point-guard mentality and IQ and remains the team’s undoubted best passer with the best vision.
But his sudden growth spurt between his sophomore and junior seasons made the game easier for himself. It also allowed him to rebound at a higher rate.
So much so that Wise led the area in rebounding last season at 12.2 per game.
For a kid that was born with a basketball in his hands, Wise growing into his “basketball body” as head coach Jason Wise calls it, was the final ingredient.
It also helped restore his love for the game that he admits waned some after his freshman season.
“Basketball has taught me life lessons, and I realized the level of dedication it was going to take to stay with it,” Wise said. “I think that if you are dedicated to something, you can have success in anything and that goes beyond basketball.”
Head coach Jason Wise has never had to question whether Ryan, his nephew, would come ready to play.
“Ryan’s work ethic speaks for itself. He has put in countless hours,” Jason Wise said. “I never have to question whether or not he is going to come to play hard.”
Playing for his uncle is not anything unusual for Ryan Wise, who has had a different family member as his coach throughout his entire career.
From Kindergarten through third grade, it was his father Matt, who is a 1996 Waterloo graduate that earned First Team All-Portager County League honors his senior season.
From fourth grade through eighth, it was his uncle Todd Wise.
And his uncle Jason Wise has coached him throughout his high-school career.
“When I took over nine years ago, I hoped that I would still be here when he graduated,” Jason said. “I wanted to see that through and it has been fun to coach him. Earlier this year, he made a move during a scrimmage and it gave me an immediate flashback to watching his dad play. It was special.”
It has never been about basketball only for Ryan Wise.
He is ranked No. 1 in his senior class academically and has never received a grade lower than an “A.” An achievement he holds with pride.
“My parents have always challenged me to do well in school. They have always told me that I am a student before I am an athlete,” Wise said. “I just want to try to be the best in everything I do.”
Despite his new height, Wise still finds himself under the basket fighting for rebounds with players bigger than him.
Wise, though, rebounds through his understanding of the game more than through pure strength. He has become adept at getting to the right spot at the right time, instinctively knowing where the ball will bounce off the rim and using his speed and length to make it difficult for opponents to box him out.
His ability to rebound came as a pleasant surprise to Jason Wise at the start of last season and eventually became part of Ryan’s identity on the court.
“Early last season, we really did not have a glue guy. We didn’t have someone that had fit into the role of doing all of those little things,” Jason Wise said. “That was something we talked about as a team, and I think it really became a turning point for Ryan. He accepted a huge role in becoming that player. From about the seventh game on, we started to consistently out-rebound teams, and we started to win games.”
Jason Wise said he now espects his team captain to continue to grow as a player and take on a larger role within the team.
“Ryan’s role was smaller last year than what will be expected of him this year,” Jason Wise said. “Last year, he scored a lot on the leftovers. This year, we will need him to lead and look to score more and for him to create his own offense at times.”
With Wise’s ability and determination, it seems a new defining moment may be just around the corner.
Ryan Wise is a great young man. He definitely will be a great leader for our future no matter what challenges come hi is way. As a former teacher for Ryan, I knew he had many special talents. He has always had respect for others and would always work well with others. He is truly an amazing student and I wish him the best of luck!
Great job Ryan!! So blessed to know and work with you!!! You’re just amazing!!!