11/25/11 — Wise makes choice, signs with UNC

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Wise makes choice, signs with UNC

By Ryan Hanchett
Published in Sports on November 25, 2011 1:48 PM

Southern Wayne High School head baseball coach Trae McKee is not one to exaggerate.

In fact, McKee often downplays his teams accomplishments on the field.

So when the long-time coach says that one of his players is "the best" at something it is quite a compliment. That's how highly McKee thinks of center fielder Kevin Wise.

"He is the best high school outfielder I have ever seen," McKee said after Wise inked his national letter-of-intent to play college baseball at the University of North Carolina this week. "His hard work at practice and his desire to be the best are unparalleled."

For four seasons McKee has watched as Wise has developed from a freshman surprise into an elite prep player. The journey began just six games into his ninth-grade season when he was thrust into the role of starting center fielder. It's a position Wise has never relinquished.

"We didn't expect that he was going to come in and play right away," McKee said. "But with his defensive ability he showed us that he could handle it and then as the year went on he began to pick up with the bat."

After a stellar sophomore campaign, Wise earned the opportunity to play in the annual North Carolina State Games. A strong showing during the competition led to college scouts taking notice.

"Some teams started sniffing around a little bit and showing some interest," Wise said. "East Carolina, UNC-Wilmington and North Carolina all watched me play and that's when the recruiting started."

Once scholarship offers began rolling in, it did not take long for Wise to make a decision.

"I found out that UNC officially offered me a spot and within two weeks I knew that is where I wanted to go," Wise said. "To have a chance to play for a program like that was too good to pass up."

Wise put together a breakout season on the diamond in 2011. He anchored the Saints' lineup as they made a run to the N.C. High School Athletic Association 3-A playoffs and followed that up with a sterling American Legion season under coach Rob Watt.

The play that best personified Wise's ability came during the summer in a Legion game against Rocky Mount. With his team trailing 4-2 in the seventh inning and Rocky Mount threatening to blow the game open, Wise raced toward the fence, laid out and made a diving over-the-shoulder catch that sent the Wayne County bench into a frenzy.

Wise ripped the game-tying RBI single one inning later and propelled Post 11 to victory.

"That catch was probably my best one ever," Wise said. "I got a good jump on it and I was extended as far as I could. And the best part was, it kept another run off the board."

McKee expects more big plays from Wise in 2012 as he prepares for his senior season.

"It's nice to have a kid that works as hard as Kevin does every single day," McKee said. "He anchors our team during the game because the guys all have confidence that he is going to come through in the big moment."

After the high school season ends, Wise will go to Chapel Hill for a five-week academic program to help him transition into college life. He has not yet chosen a major.

"All I really want to do is play baseball," Wise said. "But I know that I am fortunate to have an opportunity to get a degree from one of the top universities around and I plan on taking advantage of it."