GREENFIELD — While glancing up at the Greenfield-Central girls’ basketball record board inside the Cougars’ home gym, a bashful uneasiness washed over Madison Wise’s face.
It was the same humbled expression she wore more than a month ago when Wise was showered with applause near center court on Senior Night for becoming Hancock County’s first 2,000-plus point scorer in girls basketball history.
Wise’s blushing reaction to her accomplishments echoed what those that know her best appreciate the most. As dominant as Wise’s game might be, her gratitude remains anchored in limpid humility.
“It’s kind of crazy to put it into perspective,” Wise said while surveying the names of the past, which will soon be replaced by her own. “I remember walking in freshman year and looking over at that board.
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“You don’t really know what you’re capable of until you go out and do it.”
With at least seven program records shattered in her four-year career, there wasn’t much Wise couldn’t achieve, including being voted as the unanimous 2016-17 All-County Girls Basketball Player of the Year for a second straight season.
“She’s the greatest player in the history of girls basketball in the county, and I think, unquestionably the greatest player to ever play at Greenfield-Central,” Cougars head coach Doug Laker said. “She’s once in a lifetime.”
The Numbers Tell the Story
For four years, Wise averaged a double-double at 20.9 points per game and 10.8 rebounds. The sum of her consistency led to 2,109 points in her career and 1,091 rebounds, making her just the fifth girls player in Indiana history to surpass both milestone marks.
“She’s always wanted to be Miss Basketball. She’s talked about that forever,” Cougars’ teammate and livelong friend Katie Helgason remarked on Wise’s drive to succeed. “Hopefully, she reaches what she’s aimed for.”
Named an Indiana Junior All-Star core member last summer, Wise put herself in position to sway the voters this winter and potentially become the first Indiana Miss Basketball winner in the county.
Stuck in a competitive three-way race for the honor with Homestead senior Karissa McLaughlin, a four-star Florida recruit, and five-star Louisville commit Dana Evans of Gary West Side, Wise posted eye-popping numbers in her final campaign.
She finished with 659 points — the most ever by a Cougars’ player in a single season — while shooting 53 percent from the field. Wise had 282 rebounds, just 11 short of her single-season record of 293 in 2015.
Against Whiteland on Nov. 5, she set the standard for most points in a single game with 42, hitting 13 of 26 field goal attempts at 50 percent.
The 6-foot-1 Iowa State recruit set the program record for career blocks with 311 and was second in career assists behind Shelby Oldham (337) with 314.
“I want her to get Miss Basketball, but the pride of wearing that Indiana jersey and the pride of Greenfield-Central getting another Indiana All-Star, that’s a great honor, and one she’s well deserving of,” Laker said. “That was one of her goals, since a little kid.”
A virtual lock to be Greenfield-Central’s third Indiana All-Star once the final selections are revealed, Wise, who is ranked 45th in the nation and 10th at her position, according to ESPN, will join Janet Meeker (1989) and Beth Davis (1988).
Inside the hallway next to the girls’ locker room both former Indiana All-Stars’ jerseys are encased with a spot open for another. Between both red, white and blue uniforms, Davis’ No. 44 Cougars’ jersey sits as the lone retired number.
Laker believes the time is right to add another.
“Right now, it’s just Beth (Davis),” Laker said. “As far as while I’m coaching at Greenfield-Central, there will never be another player that will wear No. 3. That’s 1,000 percent guaranteed.”
Few will challenge her county scoring title, either, which not only surpassed Mt. Vernon’s Sydney Shelton’s (1,985) record set in 2016 for girls basketball, but also Greenfield-Central’s John Hamilton (2,064) for boys basketball in 2000. Only Greenfield’s Mike Edwards in 1969 with 2,343 points is better than Wise.
Battling Through Adversity
“The one thing that people don’t understand in this Miss Basketball chase is Madison guarded the opponent’s best player every single time,” Laker said. “I know for a fact that didn’t happen with Dana and Karissa. Madison wanted to guard it. We needed her to guard it, and she went out and did it.”
One by one injuries decimated the Cougars’ plans for 2016-17. In August, Helgason, an Indiana Junior All-Star and Ball State recruit, went down with an ACL tear on the soccer field. Once the basketball season started, junior forward Jessica Farrell exited with a season-ending knee injury, which crippled the team’s chances of repeating it’s 23-win sectional championship season in 2015-16.
The loss of both pushed Wise into unfamiliar territory as the team’s go-to defender and part-time point guard, something the forward never focused on in previous seasons.
Helgason eventually returned to the floor after missing the first 12 games, but was running at nearly 40 percent due to fatigue and conditioning. Farrell was projected to add a spark after becoming the most improved player in the offseason. The situation left a heavy burden on Wise to produce and lead a young and inexperienced team.
“She’s gone through a lot this year,” Helgason said. “When I wasn’t playing, I know it was rough on her because she had to do a lot more, but she overcame all of that.”
Facing repeated double and triple teams, Wise scored in double figures in all but two of the team’s 28 games and had 20 or more points in 19 contests as the Cougars went 17-11.
The team banded together with Helgason back in the lineup to win the Hall of Fame Classic and take runner-up at their own tournament in December. Yet, another critical blow with the loss of standout shooter Kate Real to an ACL tear during the sectional ended their postseason run in the finals to New Castle 51-41 on Feb. 4.
“With Katie, Jess and then Kate out, it was a whole different ball game,” Wise said. “Having players out is big, especially losing Katie at point guard. That was pretty rough, and then losing our best shooter in sectional.”
Wise scored 27 points in her last high school game during the Greenfield-Central Sectional and 89 total through her final three postseason games.
“It was definitely challenging this year, but one thing we can hold our heads high for is winning the Hall of Fame. Obviously, it didn’t turn out the way we wanted it to, but it was definitely the most challenging year on the court,” Wise said. “It made me a better player.”
More Than Basketball
“She’s the most coachable kid I’ve had in my 26 years of coaching, but she’s one of the most unique kids I’ve ever met, too. She has all these stats, but she’s the nicest kid more than anything,” Laker said. “Whenever you talk to Madison, she makes you feel special. She has that gift.”
While shedding the “soft” label on the floor, which motivated her to become a more confident player, Wise has been elite off the court all of her life.
Serving as class president every year since junior high, she is a National Honor Society member and is ranked 15th in her graduating class of 340 students. Her GPA sits at 4.2 and is active in student council, the Student Leadership Academy, Leaders to Go, Fellowship of Christian Athletes and in her faith at Park Chapel Christian Church.
A peer mentor for underclassmen at Greenfield-Central, Wise’s proudest involvement is with special needs students, a dedication she latched onto while her mother, Lynn, worked as a teacher’s aide at Harris Elementary School.
“I started going in my freshman and sophomore year to work with the kids. Ever since then, they grabbed my heart,” Wise said. “First semester, that was my project for my (Biomedical Interventions) a Project Lead the Way class. I went over there Monday mornings and created a project, a simple communicator for them.”
As a means to help students communicate with their instructors, touch tablets are often used to facilitate messages, but Wise campaigned a project to make the process easier.
“A lot of the kids have talkers like iPads where they press buttons, but some of the kids aren’t to that level yet to where they can work them, so I made a strap-on band that lights up,” Wise said. “It has simple pictures for communication with pictures they can understand.”
Wise, who cringes at the sight of an A-minus on her report card, continues to find time to work with special needs students at the high school level and doesn’t plan to stop despite picking up her first job recently at McCleery’s Sporting Goods in Greenfield.
“Out of everything, I’m going to remember the person she is,” Laker said of Wise’s legacy.
The Future is Bright
“I don’t ever put makeup on it,” Wise referred to her battle scar on her right cheek, which she collected when she bested Evans head-to-head 62-55 on Dec. 23. “It’s not even worth it, except for pictures.”
Usually, she sports the flushed red wound proudly. It serves as a reminder of her journey.
From a toddler shooting hoops in the family’s living room with her father, Kent, and her siblings Darren, Cameron and sister Kristen, Wise has relished every step from rising star to prep standout to Big 12 prospect.
“It goes by so fast,” Wise said. “I’m going to remember the team chemistry, the bonding and my amazing coaches (at Greenfield-Central) and my AAU coaches (with Indy Magic) the most. They were so important in everything I’ve been able to do.”
Eager to replicate the same success under Cyclones head coach Bill Fennelly beginning next fall, Wise is set to take her first college courses on June 14 and start summer workouts.
If named an Indiana All-Star, she’s already made arrangements to travel back to the Hoosier State for the exhibition games against the Indiana Junior All-Stars and the two-game series against Kentucky.
“You can’t take that for granted being chosen. I know I can speak for all of us that are picked that you’re wearing one of the neatest jerseys you can in Indiana,” Wise said. “I’m going to play.”
Whenever Wise puts her mind to something, it typically happens, and it runs in the family.
“My granddad (Gordon), who turned 83 this week, was at almost every single game this season,” Wise said. “He’s still the (public address announcer at Wright State) and he missed some of their (men’s) games and drove almost two hours to come and see me play.”
The family and her coaches intend to embark on the nine-hour drive from Greenfield to see her play at Iowa State, though flying on occasion isn’t out of the question either.
“I’m looking forward to seeing a game at Phog Allen Arena in Kansas. I cannot wait to go watch a game there with one of my players on that floor,” Laker said. “It’s going to be one of the great honors of my life.
“They say as a coach, you get a player like Maddie once every 25 years. She was my one in every 25 years.”