UC Irvine junior men's basketball star Eric Wise, who was four points and 62 rebounds away from cracking the school's top 10 career lists in those categories, said Friday he is transferring to another Division I school where he will finish his collegiate career during the 2012-13 season.
"I thought it was just time to move on, pretty much," Wise said by phone. "I don't want to make it seem like Irvine was a bad place. I guess I thought [transferring] will be best for me playing basketball after [college]."
Wise said he considered the NBA a long shot, but would like to play professionally overseas after completing his college eligibility. He said he plans to transfer to a Division I school and sit out next season. He said he has no idea what school that might be.
UCI Coach Russell Turner, who successfully convinced the 6-foot-6, 240-pound forward-center not to transfer after last season, when Turner replaced 13-year coach Pat Douglass, said Wise told him he was thinking about transferring on April 8.
Turner said he talked with Wise and his father, former Long Beach State All-American Francois Wise, at least two times during the last week.
"I was definitely surprised that he wanted to leave," Turner said of Eric Wise, who averaged 16.3 points and a team-best 8.1 rebounds last season, when a string of leg injuries forced him to miss 12 games and play only sparingly in one other of the team's 32 games. "I told him I'd like for him to stay, but I wanted him to be happy.
"We have no choice but to move on," Turner said Friday when reached by phone. "We're going to miss things that Eric brought to us on the court. Sometimes, when a guy makes a decision to transfer, it's hard to understand. That's how I feel about [Wise's] decision."
Turner said Wise has been granted permission to talk with prospective schools. The full release is typically granted when student-athletes complete academic course work at the schools from which they are leaving, to ensure the current school is not penalized under academic standards for scholarship student-athletes.
Wise said he plans to complete the spring quarter at UCI and he does not have a timetable for making a decision on where he will play next.
Wise started 62 of the 63 games in which he played his first two seasons at UCI, both seasons earning second-team All-Big West Conference recognition.
As a sophomore, he averaged 16.3 points, 6.5 rebounds and 3.0 assists, becoming only the second player to lead the Anteaters in all three statistical categories, the first in 37 seasons.
As a freshman, he averaged a team-best 14.0 points and 6.0 rebounds, second-best on the team, and was a member of the conference's All-Freshman Team.
Despite injury problems in the 2010-11 season, he produced nine of his 15 career double-doubles (double figures in points and rebounds in the same game), was the only Anteater to earn conference player of the week recognition and received honorable mention in all-conference voting.
Wise, a former CIF Southern Section Player of the Year at Martin Luther King High in Riverside, finishes his UCI career with 1,280 points (No. 11 all-time at the school) and 553 career rebounds (No. 15 in UCI career annals).
Wise said he will take fond memories from his time at UCI.
"My three years were a lot of fun," Wise said. "I met people I will talk to the rest of my life. I will miss my teammates and all the people at the school — faculty and the fans."
Wise said he does not regret electing to stay at UCI for the 2010-11 season.
"I still had fun playing this [past season] even though I wanted us to do better," Wise said of a team that finished 13-19 and lost in the first round of the conference tournament for a third straight season. "I probably had the most fun since I've been playing basketball."
Turner said Derrick Strings, a redshirt junior who will graduate in May, also will leave the program with the intention of transferring and playing a final season at another Division I school.
Strings, a 6-2 guard, averaged 4.9 points in 25 games last season. He started one game and his 29 three-pointers ranked fifth on the squad.
Turner also said junior walk-on Jonas Lalezadeh will not return. Lalezadeh scored four points in three appearances last season. He played in 13 games, starting three, in 2009-10, when he scored 26 points.