When my cellphone buzzed with an incoming message Thursday night, I knew who it was before I even looked.
Having played phone tag the past couple of days with Greenfield-Central senior Madison Wise, my intuition was right. Catching her in between shift changes, so to speak, she politely apologized for missing my earlier call to talk recruiting.
No explanation necessary, I responded. After all, who am I to snark at a hopeful Indiana Miss Basketball candidate for prioritizing?
Based on past conversations, it’s pretty obvious she doesn’t have much free time. She has goals this school year, and they don’t include burning up precious minutes.
Most mornings, the highly-sought-after prospect crawls out of bed and immediately heads to the courts to train with the guys team. She mentioned this to me in Bloomington during her Indiana Junior All-Star exhibition tour this summer, which made me do a double-take until she explained her reasoning.
Running the floor with the varsity boys has become part of her routine. Something she does to improve her first step, mental toughness and physicality in the post.
Once school starts, the honor student punches the clock, again, putting in a full day inside the classroom just as faithfully as she does back on the floor after dismissal. More jump shots are accompanied by countless layups and 3-pointers, followed by homework. Just another day in the life.
Though, this fall is different for the 6-foot-1 wing — and by design.
No more volleyball. She hung up her running shoes last winter, too, when she decided to step away from track, despite being a state-qualifying hurdler as a sophomore and freshman.
Sure they were fun ways to pass the time, but when you average a double-double for a third straight season your future tends to come into focus.
And her eyes are locked in, much like the countless Big Ten, SEC, Big East, Mid-American and Horizon League college recruiters tracking her every step the past few years.
After she averaged 22.7 points per game, 10.4 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 2.5 steals and 3.0 blocks as a junior, the letters continued to pour in. Talent is hard to dismiss, especially when the numbers back up the scouting reports.
With one more season left, Wise has 1,450 points in her career, ranking her third on the program’s all-time list and fourth in the county.
Her 819 rebounds is unmatched in girls basketball school history, and so are her 293 rebounds in a single season, which shattered Beth Davis’ former mark (243) set in 1986-87.
Wise only needs 535 more points to tie Mt. Vernon’s Sydney Shelton for the county’s all-time crown and 550 to reach 2,000, another potential accolade to add to her sectional championship in 2015-16 (the school’s first in 12 years), and a program-best 23 wins.
Those aren’t the numbers she’s chasing, though. She is shooting for No. 1, a chance to become the county’s first Indiana Miss Basketball.
It’s why she’s in the gym every waking hour, heading to Atlanta in September with her AAU team, the Indy Magic, and putting on a clinic as a core member of the Indiana Junior All-Stars.
The opportunity is real and this upcoming season is a proving ground. The Class 4A Cougars have loaded up their schedule with key matchups against some of the award’s potential top vote getters, including Homestead’s Karissa McLaughlin and Plainfield’s Kayla Casteel at the Hall of Fame Classic in New Castle.
Dana Evans of Gary West Side, a five-star recruit, is arguably the front-runner after averaging a state-leading 35.8 points per game as a junior. But let’s be honest, this year’s winner isn’t as predictable as Princeton’s Jackie Young.
Unlike 2015-16, the class of 2017 is nowhere near as deep nor definitive, meaning this race could be tight heading into March.
And I’m guessing the schools Wise announced as her “top eight” earlier this week (Arkansas, Ball State, DePaul, Illinois, Iowa State, Kentucky, Michigan State and Pittsburgh) are ready to double down. I’m sure the Cyclones will when Wise takes her first official visit to Ames, Iowa, on Aug. 20.
Betting against a gym rat like Wise is, well, unwise. I have a feeling the rest of the state will agree with me, once they catch up with her.