ATWATER -- Allison Wisdom vividly remembers the moment she decided basketball was the sport for her.
Track and cross country were the focus of the Buhach Colony High School star’s athletic career growing up. A friend’s prompting to try out for the McSwain Middle School sixth-grade ‘B’ basketball team changed her life.
“I’d never played basketball before, but I made the team as the starting point guard,” Wisdom said. “Coach (Jeff) Rivero was still the Buhach coach then, and that summer I was going to be an eighth-grader, he asked me to come train with the varsity team.
“When I saw where they were at and where I was at, I knew basketball was what I wanted to do and that I had a lot of work to get to where I wanted to go.”
Wisdom’s uncle installed a regulation hoop at home, and her free time was spent either on her driveway or in a gym. The Sun-Star Girls Basketball Player of the Year quickly made up for lost time, surpassing the skills of her peers and helping turn the Thunder into an area power during her four-year varsity career.
Buhach was 9-17 overall and 2-12 in the Central California Conference in Wisdom’s freshman season. The next year, the Thunder captured its first CCC championship (a co-title with Pitman) and followed with a second crown in her junior season. She capped a stellar career this season with the CCC MVP award and the school’s first Sac-Joaquin Section playoff victory.
“That was the ultimate goal heading into this season,” Wisdom said. “Obviously, we wanted to win league for a third straight time, but winning a playoff game meant more, because neither the boys or girls had ever done it.
“Last year’s playoff game was a disappointment,” Wisdom said of a 46-18 rout by visiting Grant of Sacramento. “We didn’t come ready to play and got beaten badly. To be able to have a monster game, along with Taj (Seals), in my senior year, really helped ease the pain of losing league to Merced (twice in CCC play).”
The 60-47 road victory over Bear Creek in Stockton in the first round of the Division II playoffs encapsulated what was asked of Wisdom this season. The senior etched a name for herself as a facilitator and playmaker the last three years. The graduation of sharpshooter Jessica Silva meant coach Shane Gentry would need more.
“We talked in the offseason about how she’d have to do what she’d always done and then add to that scoring,” Gentry said. “She’s always had the ability to score, but there were times she’d get rattled. I felt like the game slowed down for her this season, and it improved her confidence and decision-making. As we went through league, she just got stronger and stronger, and that culminated with two very good playoff games.”
Wisdom averaged 19.3 points, 5.2 rebounds, 3.3 steals and 2.8 assists per game. All were career highs, including an increase of more than six points from her junior season. Wisdom was even better in big games, scoring 27 points each in two victories over Atwater and 20 in the Thunder’s second loss to Merced.
She elevated her game once again in the playoffs, scoring 29 in the Bear Creek victory and 22 in the season-ending loss to Del Oro.
“This season was very different because it was an all new team chemistry,” Wisdom said. “I didn’t have that bond with anyone like I had with Jessica. It forced me to create that chemistry with everyone else.
“It was also tougher because I had to step up and be a scorer. Not only was I expected to create shots for everyone else, I had to create and look for my own shots. I struggled with it at times, but I believe I’m a better player because of it.”
Kevin Pham agrees. The UC Merced women’s basketball coach scooped up Wisdom with plans for her to be a regular in the high-octane basketball the Bobcats hope to produce next season.
“I had some interest and offers from bigger schools, but I really wanted to stay close to home and keep playing in front of the people that have always supported me,” Wisdom said. “I think I’m a good fit for their style. Hopefully, I can go in and make an impact as a freshman.”
Sun-Star staff writer Sean Lynch can be reached at (209) 385-2476 or firstname.lastname@example.org.