USC forward Eric Wise (34) dropped 50 pounds and is gaining some attention… (Eugene Tanner / Associated…)
USC forward Eric Wise scored 14 points on only 10 shots in a 71-69 victory over Stanford on Thursday night in a Pac-12 Conference opener. Wise also made two of his three three-point attempts, a sign that a player understands where and when to take the long shot.
Cardinal Coach Johnny Dawkins pointed to Wise as not only a good Pac-12 player but someone who should get national attention.
"He is a great player," Dawkins said. "He is strong. He is probably one of the most efficient players in the conference, maybe the country. Look at his performance from the field, from the three. He is a very good player."
The kind words from Dawkins, who was a great player at Duke, perked up Wise. Last Sunday, Wise, who had already scored 19 points, was tossed from the game with two technicals and the Trojans ended up playing nearly 10 1/2 minutes without their best player before beating Dayton in overtime.
USC, on a two-game winning streak, played California in a late game on Saturday at Galen Center.
USC Coach Kevin O'Neill said after that Dayton game that Wise exhibited "unobliterated immaturity," and Wise said Friday after practice that O'Neill wasn't wrong.
"I won't get another technical this year," Wise said, "unless it's from hanging on the rim after a dunk."
Since transferring from UC Irvine and sitting out last season, Wise has lost 50 pounds and chiseled himself into a 6-foot-6, 240-pound all-court player who has hopes of playing professionally.
Teammate Byron Wesley echoed what Dawkins said about Wise, who played high school basketball at Riverside King.
"He's real talented," Wesley said. "He can do everything on the court. Because he's so versatile, he's a problem for a lot of teams. He can post up, play the wing, he's a great rebounder for his size and he's a definite team player, not a ball hog. And, yeah, he takes good shots."
Wesley said that Wise also took O'Neill's harsh words well. "Eric kept his head up," Wesley said.
O'Neill was kinder Friday about Wise, who leads the Trojans in scoring (11.6 a game) though he has taken only the third-most shots on the team, on Friday. Wise, shooting 53% from the field and 57% on three-pointers, is also third in assists and second in rebounding for the Trojans.
"Eric's been very solid," O'Neill said. "He takes good shots and I think it's innate with him. He does things quietly, he's not a real flashy guy, but he can score inside and out."
O'Neill said USC took a risk on Wise because he was so heavy at UC Irvine. "But as soon as he got here he went to the weight room," O'Neill said. "He got on the right diet, began working out, all that."
Wise said he knows what a good shot is, but he doesn't know why. "I guess I have good basketball IQ," he said. "As the game goes on, I see stuff. My favorite shot is around the elbow. I just take shots I know I can make. I might not make them all, but they're shots I can make."
And as for the second technical he got against Dayton, Wise said it was a mistake but not a terrible one. "I wasn't talking to anyone in particular," he said. "I was just talking. But, yeah, I learned my lesson."
Wesley, who left Thursday's game in the second half with cramping in his stomach, said Friday he is feeling better and planned to play against California. "I wasn't hydrated enough," Wesley said. "We've been practicing real hard and I started cramping up.
"I felt it a little bit in the first half but kept playing through it. In the second half it was getting bad. My abs locked up. I got an IV, but it kept happening."