Traveling seven hours away from Pittsburgh, the city she grew up in, senior forward Brenna Wise had a lot to learn about playing for a Big Ten team.
After leaving the University of Pittsburgh midway through her collegiate career, she entered Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall and along with it, a different environment.
IU women’s basketball has come alive in recent years, making the NCAA tournament last season and winning the NIT tournament title the season prior. Its recruitment class is one of the top 20 in the nation, and the players need mentoring from veterans.
Having upperclassmen on IU’s roster is common. Being the only senior is rare. It has only happened one other time for IU in the last decade.
Knowing that Wise is her only senior, head coach Teri Moren said the team relies on her leadership and respects her efforts on and off the court.
“She’s just enthusiastic, she loves life, she loves to compete and she loves to lead,” Moren said. “She’s obviously proved that time and time again with her team, someone you can rely on everyday in practice to give us our best.”
This season is Wise’s opportunity to model leadership and develop the new arrivals on the No. 3 team in the Big Ten. She feels prepared to take the lead because of the role models who welcomed her two seasons ago.
“All great leaders focus on building more leaders,” Wise said. “My goal is to make sure that I have cultivated and grown other leaders to continue the success of this program.”
As an inactive redshirt between her sophomore and junior season, being mentored by the likes of Tyra Buss and Amanda Cahill allowed her to develop and play under strong leadership skills.
Buss, the program’s leader in points scored, free throws made, steals, assists and more provided Wise with valuable offensive strategies. Cahill, who also racked up offensive highlights, demonstrated the importance of communication and teamwork by earning conference sportsmanship honors in back-to-back seasons.
Wise said she valued how Buss and Cahill greeted her and new teammates with open arms but grew more as a leader and player by watching the senior duo inspire other players.
Leading by example is how Wise plans on pushing her teammates to achieve their goals of personal and athletic development this season. Her constant reminder of this mindset comes not only from Buss and Cahill but from head coach Teri Moren.
“I have a profound respect for the way that she is as a leader,” Wise said. “I would run through walls for that woman because I know she would do the same.”
Likewise, Moren said Wise will play a crucial role heading into the new season with injured veterans and new players on the roster.
“Her ability to stretch you out and knock down threes at a high level is what we’ll expect to continue,” Moren said. “She’s Miss Consistency. We always know what we are going to get with Brenna.”
Wise wants her teammates to understand that IU women’s basketball is about a culture that prioritizes work on a day-to-day basis. She communicates this throughout practices but also invests time in building friendships off the court.
Outside of practice, Wise brings players to volleyball and football games, along with nights in downstown Bloomington or to the athletic dining hall.
Whether it's be food or study sessions at someone’s apartment, Wise values bonding with everyone in the hopes that younger players will feel loved and will want to do this for future teammates.
The ultimate goal, Wise said, is to bond like a family.
“I came to Indiana and acquired 15 others sisters that I never had,” Wise said.
Her newest sisters include freshman guards Grace Waggoner and Shaila Beeler, freshman forwards Jorie Allen and Mackenzie Holmes and freshman centers Hannah Noveroske and Arielle Wisne.
Together, Wise and her teammates bond over a diverse music selection from Chris Brown to Mariah Carey’s “All I want for Christmas is You.” No matter who has the aux during practices, they all have the same goal of chasing titles.
“They bring this hunger to want to succeed and provide anything positive at any moment to the team,” Wise said. “You want to work hard, and they want to work hard.”
Opening night is Nov. 7 against Mount St. Mary’s University at Assembly Hall. Wise said she looks forward to growing closer to her teammates while demonstrating what the standard should be throughout the season.
“Each year we’ve continued to raise the bar, and this year we’re looking forward to raising it even more,” Wise said.