His given name -- Allen Harper Wise III -- sounds vaguely familiar. And his style on the basketball court -- smooth and under control, with a feathery shooting touch -- starts a Baltimore basketball fan wondering, trying to make an association. Then someone calls him "Dip," and a light bulb clicks on.
Skip Wise -- the man who almost single-handedly put Baltimore high school basketball on the map in a memorable 1973 Dunbar win over DeMatha, who went on to first-team All-ACC honors as a Clemson freshman in his only year of college ball -- has a son playing basketball.
And the kid can play.
"He's got the basketball genes," said Forest Park coach Carrell Reavis of Allen Wise, his 6-foot-1 sophomore forward, currently averaging 13.4 points, 5.6 assists and 4.2 rebounds for the Foresters (7-4, 4-1 in the MSA B Conference).
Known to family and friends as "Dip," Wise said, "That's short for 'Honeydip.' My father gave me that name. That was his nickname." But Wise has gotten more than genes and a nickname from his father and family.
Skip's problems with drugs and a series of incarcerations have been well-documented. Recently released on parole, he's working in the area now, but declined to be interviewed for this story. Even while imprisoned, though, he and Dip maintained a relationship.
"I went to see him frequently on Sundays with my grandparents," Dip said. "Today, a lot of kids don't even have a father. At least I could go see my father. I consider myself very lucky, especially to have a family. I'd be lost without 'em."
With his grandparents, he traveled as far as Ashland, Ky., to visit Skip. "I would say all the visits were positive," said Al Wise, Dip's grandfather, with whom he has lived since he was 13. "I never saw him upset about his father. It makes a kid sad to leave his father, though. He's a tough little kid."
Al Wise, who retired three years ago from Bethlehem Steel, is the progenitor of this basketball clan, having played at Douglass and a year at Morgan State in the 1950s.
And it's evident to those around him that Dip, a friendly, outgoing youngster with a quick smile, is not overwhelmed by the famous name he carries. "He'd never bring it up and brag like some people," said Forest Park's senior co-captain, Eric Bazemore. "He keeps a pretty straight head about it."
"He carries it very well," Al Wise said. "He knows the negatives, but on the street he hears all the positives."
When Dip was 3 years old, "My father had a basketball in my hand," he said. Growing up in East Baltimore, living with his mother at the time, he started playing at Lafayette Courts under the tutelage of Leon Howard when he was 8.
"I knew him from when he was first born," Howard said. "I knew his mother real well and coached Skip. Dip was like my own son. I used to bring him up to my house for a day or so on weekends. I could discipline him like one of my own kids. He always did anything I asked him to do."
And Dip started for Howard's 11-and-under city champions one year. "He could shoot the ball real well then," said Howard. "He didn't particularly like to dribble. I used to play him on the wing. He jumped fairly well at that time, too, and he was younger than the other kids."
Now he plays power forward and shooting guard for Forest Park. Despite his bloodlines and the tips he picks up from his father when they play together on Sundays, he's not yet the top player on the team. Bazemore (30.9 points, 9.5 rebounds, 9.2 assists) provides explosive scoring and spark on the floor. And senior co-captain Kelly Press (15.2 points, 7.3 rebounds, 7.2 assists) "holds the team together when things go wrong," said Reavis.
But Wise is a comer. "He hasn't reached his potential because he's still a young kid," Reavis said. "He's a fluid worker. You can show him something one time and he retains it. He doesn't get rattled . . . He's not a selfish ballplayer. He gives it up 75 percent of the time. The rest of the guys seem to know that . . . They look at him as a valuable part of the offense. They feed him and look for him on the break."
"My coach is telling me to shoot more," Wise said. "But I'm just not selfish. I just like playing with other people. I like team basketball."
To be sure, he is unselfish. At an age, 17, when many kids strain to break away from their families and reject responsibility, Dip Wise journeys almost daily to East Baltimore to see his mother, grandmother, girlfriend and Allen Harper Wise IV, age 1 -- his son.
"I've never seen a kid so young so engrossed with a child before," said Al Wise. "He could have run away from it but he didn't. He sees him practically every day."
The devotion is apparent when Dip talks about his son. The young father is smitten, but parenthood can be confusing at that age, with so much yet to do.
"My main concern is my son," he said. "Of course I want to play basketball, but I want my son to do the right thing. I'm like an old, protective grandfather." He smiled at the irony. "My grandfather talks to me about life every night."
Al has let Dip know in other ways what he thinks is important. He doesn't go to all the Forest Park games because, he said, "I don't want him to think I'm so engrossed with basketball that everything else could go . . . He knows I'm a fanatic for academics."
The lesson has not been lost. "School," said Dip, when asked what is important to him. "Being around a lot of people and learning." A self-described average student, his favorite subject is algebra and he likes English "because it's a challenge." And he's a well-rounded kid who likes to work with his hands, bowl and roller skate.
He knows he has basketball potential that could send him to college, but doesn't want to trade on the family name. "I want to go away," he said, "and make my own name."
Until then, he has his father to draw on -- "He'll tell me what not to do" -- as well as his grandfather. And, eventually, he'll sort it all out.
"He probably does more thinking than I realize he does," Al Wise said. "When we're rapping, he says some things that are so positive. He's on course."