Eric Wise
UCI sophomore Eric Wise (No. 34) is blossoming into one of the best players in the Big West Conference. He hopes one day to follow in his father's footsteps and play professionally. Steve Zylius / University Communications

Eric Wise speaks softly, but on the basketball court, he carries a big stick.

A sophomore forward on the UC Irvine men’s team, the 6-foot-5-inch, 235-pound Wise specializes in an old-school game rare on the collegiate scene these days: power basketball.

In hoops terminology, Wise excels at pounding the ball down low — using size, strength and positioning to impose his will and get off good shots in the hotly contested area around the basket. Only the rugged survive here.

“A lot of people like to stay outside and shoot three-pointers,” Wise says. “But I’m more fundamental; I like to pound it inside.”

“Eric has a touch and feel for the game you can’t teach,” says Anteaters coach Pat Douglass. “He has great instincts on the court.”

By employing his distinctive set of skills, Wise is blossoming into one of the top players in the Big West Conference. Last season, he led the Anteaters in scoring with 14 points per game and earned a place on the conference’s All-Freshman team. This year, he was named to the preseason All-Big West team.

As the Anteaters play through their pre-conference schedule, Wise is living up to the accolades. After seven games, he led his team in scoring with 12.7 points per game and in rebounding with 5.3 per contest.

“So far, the season is shaping up pretty well,” he says. “I’m just coming out and working on helping the team in whatever way I can.”

Wise’s success should come as no surprise — basketball is the family business. His father, Francois Wise, an All-American power forward at Long Beach State in the late ’70s, is the 49ers’ career leader in rebounding. His uncle, Willie Wise, was a standout in the old American Basketball Association in the early ’70s.

Eric Wise credits his father for his hoops prowess, cultivated in backyard basketball battles with his older brothers, Francois Jr. and Cameron, who starred at Waldorf College in Iowa.

“Those were pretty competitive games,” Wise recalls. “My brothers and I would get into it sometimes, and Dad would step in and teach us how to play right.”

He learned well. As a senior at Martin Luther King High School in Riverside, Wise was named the California Interscholastic Federation-Southern Section Division IA Player of the Year while leading his team to a CIF championship. He was recruited by a number of colleges before electing to stay closer to home at UCI, where he plans to major in sociology.

Wise hopes to follow in his father’s footsteps when his Anteater days are over. The elder Wise spent eight years in the Philippines’ pro basketball league before becoming an officer with the Los Angeles Police Department.

“I’ll be working hard to get better and, hopefully, play professionally someday, wherever that may be,” Wise says. “Until then, I want our team to win the Big West Conference title and make it to the NCAA tournament. If we play together, I think we can make it.”