Manila junior to be Kimberly Wise is well on her way to becoming one of the best athletes in Lady Lion history, having racked up numerous awards in her first two seasons as a two-sport star for Manila.
Wise was named All-State in softball as well as All-Conference in both softball and basketball her freshman season. Wise followed up her superb freshman season by garnering both All-Conference and All-State honors in both sports her sophomore season.
(Town Crier photo/Trent Fletcher)
"I probably prefer basketball over softball, because it is faster paced and I have been playing it longer," said Wise, who is on course to become the all-time leading scorer in Lady Lion history. But the 5'9" guard, who also is the star pitcher and hitter for Manila's softball team, loves both sports. It could be said that it's in her blood, having watched her brother Jordan excel as a two-sport standout for Manila before going on to play college basketball at Harding Academy in Searcy.
"I've always loved playing sports, and I had my brother to look up to," said Wise. "I wanted to be a good player like he was. Growing up, it's been hard in some ways being Jordan Wise's sister and trying to live up to his accomplishments. There was pressure, but I think I've done okay. I am very proud of my brother, and he has inspired me to be a good player."
Wise's father Junior Wise has also played a big hand in Kimberly's development. "My Dad has been my biggest influence. He has been hard on me in some ways, but it's made me a better player. I get a lot of support from all my family," said Wise.
Wise has totaled 952 points in her two seasons on the varsity, having started as a freshman in 2006. Wise averaged 13.5 points per game in her freshman campaign, racking up 344 total points. She upped her average to 19.6 points per game last season as a sophomore, scoring 608 on the year, giving her a two-year total of 952.
Wise is a 73 percent free throw shooter and hits at a 43 percent clip from the field. The gifted junior is also an excellent three point shooter, having nailed over 50 in her career thus far. Three times Wise has scored 30 or more points in a game with her high mark being 39, which came against Hughes last February.
"She is as good a scoring guard as I have ever coached," said Lady Lion Coach Jeff Priest. "She is also the best athlete I have ever had the privilege of coaching. She just has a knack for scoring and does an excellent job of getting to the basket. She's the best player and one of the hardest workers I've ever had. She is also becoming a very good defensive player. But most of all, she is a great kid. She does what is right. She is just something special."
"Sometimes it can be difficult being the top scorer on the team, especially when it comes to working with your teammates," continued Priest. "But the other kids have been great. They want Kimberly to take the big shots and Kimberly relishes the opportunity when the game is on the line. It makes my job a lot easier. Sometimes girls can be jealous, but that has not been the case with this bunch. Kimberly knows how to handle it. She doesn't boast, which makes it easier for me and her teammates."
"I want the ball in my hands when the game is on the line," said Wise. "I want to take the last shot in the game. I always feel like I will make it. I have a competitive drive to take the game head on. I don't mean this to sound selfish. It's just the confidence I have in myself and I think my teammates want me to have the ball when the game is on the line as well."
"I couldn't do anything without my teammates," said Wise. "They are not only teammates, they are my friends. They make me a better player and deserve as much credit as I do. We are like family. Last year I got hurt early in our game against a very good Riverside team and had to come out, and my teammates picked me up and won the game anyway. It showed our team that they could win without me. We also played East Poinsett County, the best team in the conference, and made it a close game, while I was still injured. The way the team played showed how important they all are and that it's a team game. It takes a team effort. That's why we are so close and love playing together."
While having a chance to break the all-time scoring record at Manila, it's more important to Wise to win championships. "It would be a great individual achievement, but the most important thing to me is to win," said Wise.
Wise has had two different coaches in her first two seasons and said it was difficult at first to change from a female coach to a male coach. "We weren't sure how it would be with Coach Priest when he first came, but we really love him," said Wise. "He has a lot of different strategies and plays. He stresses togetherness and being a close-knit team. It was difficult at first because we had been in our own separate packs. Now we all hang out and work together as a team. This was a big change for all of us."
The transition to the varsity team as a freshman was made a lot easier since Wise had done the same thing when she was in the seventh grade, moving up to play for the junior high squad. "When I was in the seventh grade, it was kind of hard at first, because I felt like I was taking someone's spot. But it worked out and has been much easier this time around because I've already been through it," said Wise.
Wise is also a standout softball player, leading the team in both hitting and pitching. "I love playing softball too," said Wise. "One of the biggest thrills I had was in my freshman year when we went to the state tournament. We were the first Manila team to go to state and we are very proud of that. We also made it to state this past season. It's our goal in both basketball and softball not just to make it to state, but to make a strong run at winning a championship."
Besides wanting to go back to state tournaments in both sports and make some noise, Wise also has long-term goals of playing either basketball or softball at the college level. "I would prefer playing basketball, but if softball is my best option, that's okay too," said Wise. "Playing both sports is just a natural thing for me. I just love it. I don't really have a preference on what school I would like to play for in college, I just want the opportunity to extend my career."
With the help of her teammates, coaches and family, Wise is well on her way to reaching those goals.