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Wise beyond her years: Freshman women's basketball star thriving in hometown - The Pitt News

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Wise beyond her years: Freshman women’s basketball star thriving in hometown

Wenhao+Wu+%7C+Senior+Staff+Photographer
Wenhao Wu | Senior Staff Photographer

Wenhao Wu | Senior Staff Photographer

Wenhao Wu | Senior Staff Photographer

By Logan Hitchcock / Staff Writer

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In the same sphere that thousands of golden-clad students have shimmied and shrieked at dangerous decibel levels, a single player and ball graced the hardwood Tuesday morning.

An unusually tranquil scene, the sound of her few dribbles and the swish of the net echoed against the Petersen Events Center’s walls.

“Every time I hear a ball bounce outside my office, I look out and it’s Brenna Wise on the court,” Suzie McConnell-Serio, head coach of the Pitt women’s basketball team, said.

Sure enough, Wise was the court’s lone companion that morning.

A Pittsburgh native and a freshman forward on the Pitt women’s basketball team, Wise highlights an energetic rebuilding project under McConnell-Serio. Despite a losing record, the team — with new, young talent — seems headed for a bright future. Returning three starters now in their sophomore year, the team added a freshmen class of seven, which Wise spearheads.

At nearby Vincentian Academy, Wise was a high school standout — leading her team to four consecutive WPIAL titles and two state championships. During that time she amassed more than 2,000 career points and became a “Miss PA Basketball” finalist in 2015.

The 13th best small forward recruit in the country according to ESPN, Wise said she committed to her hometown university to help continue the momentum that McConnell-Serio has injected into a struggling program.

Like Wise, McConnell-Serio was a local basketball standout, starring at Pittsburgh’s Seton-La Salle high school before an illustrious career that eventually landed her in the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame.

Wise couldn’t resist the lure of staying in the Steel City.

“How do you leave Pittsburgh? It’s an incredible city, with incredible people,” Wise said.

Only 30 minutes from Wise’s front door at home, Pitt and McConnell-Serio have welcomed her enthusiastically.

“She leaves an impression on everyone she meets,” McConnell-Serio said. “She is polite and she is respectful. She does the right thing and says the right thing and is an unbelievable person to have on your team on and off the court.”

Since joining the team this spring, Wise has been immediately dynamic for the Panthers. Wise has lived up her high school hype and started every game for Pitt.

“It’s certainly been a challenge. The physicality has changed, the speed has changed,” Wise said.

Wise has shined in the opportunity to start from day one, carving out the most minutes of court time — averaging nearly 30 minutes per game.

“She makes things happen. She makes plays at both ends of the floor. It’s very difficult to take her off the floor,” McConnell-Serio said.

On the floor, she’s embodied Pittsburgh’s hard-nosed mentality — leading the team with 10.6 points and 7.5 rebounds per game, while never taking a possession off. Her rebounding mark is currently tied for seventh most per game in the ACC and leads all other freshmen in the conference.

Outside of game time, Wise has also become a vocal leader and a role model for the other players.

“You look at what she brings to our team as far a work ethic and as far as coachability and leadership, even as a freshman,” McConnell-Serio said. “She has become a captain on our team.”

Her teammates haven’t ignored Wise’s drive to improve.

“She’s extremely hard working,” said Cassidy Walsh, a point guard and a fellow local product, who added that Wise has pushed herself to be great throughout her career.

Wise and Walsh have played together since they were teammates in eighth grade in AAU basketball, and the pair of freshmen has joined forces after graduation again at Pitt.

“I just remember telling her, it’s going to be so great if you come here and we can play together,” Walsh said.

Relationships with friends and family helped keep Wise home to play for the Panthers, with nearly 20 members of friends or family coming to cheer for her at every game.

Her father, Stu Wise, is well-aware of the benefit their family provides Brenna at games.

“It’s been very special for us,” Stu Wise said. “It’s like a little pep rally for Brenna. She has a great following here and a ton of fan support.”

Brenna is grateful for the local love.

“It’s a lot of support that I don’t think I would have gotten anywhere else,” Brenna said. “I remember when I was a little girl, I used to come to the Pitt camps and look at the athletes and say ‘Wow.’ I was awestruck by them. I wanted to be in their shoes.”

In fact, Brenna has had her sights set on Pitt since the sixth grade.

“She has a letter that she showed Suzie from when she was in sixth grade — one of her dreams was to become a Pitt basketball player and go to college there,” Stu Wise said.

Having fulfilled that dream, Brenna is thriving individually in her hometown but said her focus remains on the win column.

The Panthers, a team with more youth than experience, have struggled mightily this season, hitting a record of just 12-14. Only four of those wins have come in-conference.

Hailing from a winning tradition at Vincentian, Brenna isn’t used to losing, but has handled the struggles with maturity and optimism.

“Losing doesn’t become easier,” she said, “This is a growing process, and we’re learning from it.”

Humbled by her significance in the program’s rebuild, Brenna will undoubtedly play a large role in the attempts to make Pitt a perennial winner under McConnell-Serio.

Did she make the right decision choosing Pitt?

”Without a doubt. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else,” she said.

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Wise beyond her years: Freshman women’s basketball star thriving in hometown