INDIANAPOLIS — The seats were empty. Then, suddenly, they weren’t.
The section “reserved for college coaches only” during the 10:30 a.m. game at the United States Junior National’s Midwest Summer Showcase in Indianapolis was vacant.
But by the time the Northside Indy Magic 17U team walked onto the court at 11:30 a.m., the college coaching section was brimming with watchful eyes.
A woman donning a Western Michigan sweatshirt sat down first. She was followed by a woman in a Ball State polo, then a man in a Miami (Ohio) shirt.
Before tipoff, apparel from all across the Midwest adorned the reserved section of the bleachers. Butler, Purdue, Indiana and Cincinnati were among the represented schools. More than a dozen schools had sent coaches to watch incoming Greenfield-Central junior Maddie Wise in action.
To be fair, Magic coach Justin Blanding said, the scouts are not just there to watch her. There are a lot of other talented girls on his team, Wise’s Cougar classmate Katie Helgason among them.
However, he said, Wise certainly has generated most of the buzz around the Magic.
As of Thursday, Wise has received 12 Division I scholarship offers, the latest coming from Southern Illinois and Akron universities.
And the number is far from set, Blanding said.
Just two weeks ago, she had seven offers. Last week, it climbed to 10 after Arkansas, Western Michigan and Bowling Green jumped in the mix. Now it’s 12.
And because the offers have kept pouring in, Wise has refrained from picking favorites.
She insists she doesn’t have top three list or a top five list or any other sort of list written down somewhere or even in her head. Right now, Wise said, she is more than happy to be playing the field.
“I’m just talking to coaches and seeing what I like,” Wise said after scoring 14 points and pulling down nine rebounds to help the Magic defeat a team from Toledo on Thursday morning. “I’m just keeping all my options open right now.”
In doing so, she is taking the advice of a caring coach from her past.
After a camp in Bloomington about four years ago, Curt Miller nearly secured her services during his tenure as the women’s basketball coach at Indiana University.
Miller floored Wise with his proposal, which included a Hoosiers jersey with her would-be number inside her would-be locker.
Though Miller desperately wanted Wise to play for his Hoosiers, he left the soon-to-be eighth-grader with some sage words to mull over before she left.
Miller told Wise that if she called him the next day to commit, she’d be making a big mistake. Instead, he advised her to consider all options, not to close any doors and to make sure she chooses the program that was right for her.
Not long after, Miller departed IU, but his words have stuck with Wise, as she is holding out as long as she can before she makes a decision.
While she said she is still considering one day donning the cream crimson, Wise said she is happy she didn’t make the commitment as a 13-year-old.
She’s learned a lot, not only about other schools, but about herself.
“I’ve had time to see what I like,” Wise said. “I was super excited when they made me an offer (at IU), but this whole process has been so good for me. It’s been a neat experience.”
In addition to giving herself time to make the right choice, her delayed decision has had another and unintended benefit. She’s brought attention to her teammates.
Helgason said she believes much of the reasons school such as Butler, Dayton and Toledo are talking with her is because of Wise.
“They come out to watch her, and they see me and they see that we play well together,” Helgason said. “And then they ask Maddie on the phone or after a game, ‘Hey who was that girl you were playing with?’”
Helgason, too, is undecided about where she is heading in a couple of seasons, but unlike Wise, she was willing to tip her hand.
“I’ve always wanted to go to Butler since I was really little,” said Helgason, who is aiming to have made her decision before beginning her senior year.
As of Thursday, Butler has offered Helgason a preferred walk-on spot, meaning she’d be a part of the team but without a scholarship.
No, it’s not a full ride, and it’s not ideal, Helgason said, but it’s a chance at continuing her hoops career and that’s what she wants more than anything.
Helgason said it has not been difficult for her to watch Wise receive offer after offer. She’s earned it. And, she said, it’s nice, if not a little nerve-racking, seeing all those college coaches in the stands during her games.
“That’s how you get seen,” she said. “It just motivated me to play better.”
Incoming Greenfield-Central junior Maddie Wise has drawn significant interest from a bevy of Division I basketball programs. The following is a list of schools who have made her scholarships offers as well as few others that have shown interest.
Wise has received offers from the following universities (listed in no particular order):
Ball State Indiana
Wise also has received interest from the following schools: