By Brian Heinemann
AMES, Iowa — The start of the 2018-19 women’s basketball season showed a lot of promise for former Piqua resident Madison Wise and the Iowa State Cyclones.
The Cyclones won the preseason WNIT, and Wise was named to the all-tournament team. Iowa State opened the year 7-0 and rolled to a 26-9 overall record, a big turnaround from the previous season’s 14-17 record.
Things didn’t end up quite where Wise or the Cyclones wanted, though. They finished 13-5 in the Big 12, second behind eventual national champion Baylor. They finished as runners-up to the Bears in the Big 12 Tournament, too, losing 67-49 in the championship game.
A strong regular season and conference tourney run earned the Cyclones a No. 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament, but an upset by No. 11 Missouri State in the second round ended Iowa State’s season short of expectations.
Wise started in all 35 games this year, averaging 8.0 points, 4.0 rebounds and 1.2 assists per contest. She scored in double-digits 12 times, with one of her best games coming against Kansas in the Big 12 Tournament, a 15-point, 10-rebound performance.
The 6-foot-1 forward was named Academic All-Big 12 First Team after her sophomore season.
Wise, a 2017 Greenfield-Central graduate, also competed in the USA Basketball 3 on 3 National Championships in Las Vegas this spring. The Iowa State team finished 2-2 in pool play and lost in the quarterfinal play-in round, finishing 12th overall out of 18 teams.
The Daily Reporter caught up with the two-time Hancock County Player of the Year and 2017 Miss Basketball Finalist recently to talk about her sophomore season and expectations moving forward.
DR: Your sophomore season saw a big leap in success for the Cyclones. How do you feel about the season, looking back at it?
MW: “It was amazing. We accomplished a lot on the court as well as off the court. With girls, it’s a lot easier to play when you’re all best friends. We were all really close — it was almost the exact same team as my freshman year. We grew together off the court, we literally hang out all the time, so that helps. Looking at our on-court success, we had great leaders last year — our three seniors were just amazing on the court and off the court. Getting to the championship game in the Big 12 was super fun for us. Getting to play Baylor, they beat us all three times, but getting to play the national champions three times, you can’t really get much higher than that level, so that was really neat. Obviously going to the NCAA Tournament was amazing, something you dream about as a little girl. The year ended a little short, but that doesn’t take away from the awesome year that we had.”
What changed between your freshman and sophomore season with the team? What led to such a big turnaround? Was it just the bond the team developed?
“I really think that’s the key aspect of it, but also, defensively we got a lot better. We went from playing a lot of zone my freshman year, because no one could really guard anyone, to really working on our defense. I think all of us could really play hard-nosed defense one-on-one, which is good for us. That helped a lot. We also had Alexa Middleton, who was a transfer who sat out my freshman year. She really led the team. She’s a great point guard with a great basketball IQ. That helped tremendously.
You were able to experience your first NCAA Tournament as a player this year. What was it like stepping out onto the court and competing at that level?
“It was nothing short of amazing, especially getting to play at home. We’re second in the nation for average number of fans. Getting to step out there, have all your home fans there, all your support behind you, you dream about that as a little girl. You watch it on TV, March Madness. I got to play in it, and that was just amazing for me and the team. When I walked out for the first time, I had chills.”
Were you happy with your own performance this season?
“You always hope to improve individually, but because we were winning games and I felt like I was playing my role for the team this year, because we advanced so much as a team, I’m completely happy with it. I couldn’t have asked for a better season, really. I would have hoped to shoot a little better, do a little more, but with what role they needed from me, I think it was a good year.
Your role so far in college has been much different than your time at Greenfield-Central. Has that been difficult to adjust to at all?
“It’s definitely an adjustment. High school I was always scoring, always had the ball in my hands. My first two years, we had more of that here (at Iowa State). Last year, I was a lockdown defender. We joke about it, because in high school, honestly I kind of just stood in the post. Senior year I had to guard a little more since Katie (Helgason) got hurt, but it was kind of a joke between us how I was not good at defense. Last year I had to guard the best player every game, so it was a big jump from that. This year I do hope to play a bigger role because of all the leadership and the scoring that we lost last year. I know my role is going to be a lot bigger this year scoring-wise, continuing to play defense, but also scoring more, getting the ball more and being trusted since I am an upperclassmen now.”
You got to compete in Las Vegas this year in the USA Basketball 3 on 3 National Championships. What was that experience like?
“Three-on-three, you play it in practice but you never really play against other teams doing it. It was an incredible experience. It’s a completely different game, way faster paced. Just getting to go there, getting the invite honestly was incredible. Getting to go there and be with my teammates, getting to say I participated in a USA event really was amazing. It’s awesome.”
With Big 12 Player of the Year and second team All-American Bridget Carleton — and several other teammates — graduating, what expectations do you have for yourself and the team?
“Bridget was Big 12 Player of the Year, best player I’ve ever been around, hardest worker. I think we’re similar — obviously she’s at the next level, she’s really, really good, she was a great leader here — but hopefully learning from her, trying to do a little bit of what she did, trying to be versatile like she was, scoring more, just watching stuff from what she did, her moves and all that, I think that’ll be a big key for me. At the end of the day you want to win games, make it to the tournament and advance. I think just working hard and continuing that legacy the seniors left us, not taking any steps backwards and progressing forward, getting better every day and working hard, which we’ve done so far.”
You mentioned the fact that you’re going to be an upperclassmen now. Is it hard to believe your first two years of college are gone already?
“It’s crazy. I live with the other two incoming juniors and we were looking at pictures the other night and talking about our first two years here. We’re all in shock that we’re already upperclassmen in college. It’s been so fast. The season does get long sometimes, but I can’t ask for better teammates and coaches. It’s been a good transition for me. I love the school, the atmosphere is just incredible, and we have the best fans in the nation.”