Former Clemson basketball star Skip Wise, convicted of trafficking in heroin, was sentenced to 12 years in prison yesterday by a federal judge who said Wise had failed in his responsibility to set a good example for young people.
Wise, 22, who played high school basketball at Dunbar in Baltimore before playing one season at Clemson, was found guilty last month. He maintained his innocence and asked for mercy right up to the time U.S. District Judge Alexander Harvey 111 sentenced him. It was Wise's second drug conviction.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Schulman, who urged the judge to sentence Wise to the maximum 15 years, said he was satisfied with the 12-year term.
Schulman said he recommended the stiff sentence because Wise was an athlete who "kids looked up to as a good example. And what does he do but sell them heroin."
Wise also showed no remorse, Schulman said.
Harvey said he could grant mercy by sentencing Wise under the federal youth correction act, which would have meant a maximum six-year sentence and the opportunity to have the conviction erased from his record.
Harvey said Wise was "eligible, but not suitable" for sentencing under the act.
Wise remained impassive during sentencing.
"You were a brilliant athlete in this city," Harvey told Wise. "But you threw it all away through your involvement in narcotics. You dealt in heroin, and heroin is dealing in human misery. The offense is compounded because of your athletic skills and because so many young people look up to you."
Wise, with his do-it-by-yourself style, led Dunbar to 40 straight victories, and was a Baltimore playground legend.
As a freshman at Clemson in 1975, Wise averaged 18.5 points a game and was an All-Atlantic Coast Conference player.
He left Clemson the next year to play for the Baltimore Claws of the now defunct American Basketball Association. The team folded without ever playing a game. But, because he had signed a contract, Wise lost his remaining college eligibility.
When the Claws failed, the players were dispersed among the league's other teams and Wise went to the San Antonio Spurs. He was cut in December, 1976.Wise later had a tryout with the golden State Warriors but was cut by that team, too.
After he was cut by the Spurs, Wise sued the NBA, the ABA and the organizers of the Baltimore Claws for $11,500, claiming he had signed a two-year no-cut contract with the Claws and that San Antonio had to honor it.
That suit is still pending.
Wise's attorney, Sheldon Friedman of Baltimore, said he wasn't sure whether he would appeal yesterday's sentence. He has 10 days to file an appeal.
Wise was convicted Dec. 8 for selling 12 grams of heroin to a federal narcotics agent.
It was his second narcotics conviction. Wise was given a one-year suspended sentence earlier this year for heroin possession.
Wise could be eligible for parole in four years, although he would have to serve an additional five years probation after his release.