May 2, 2016
By Hannah Gebresilassie
A jab to the left, to the right, Sydney Wallace drove baseline with her left hand, jump-stopped, released the ball, scored her 1,001st career point, then heard a pop.
“I was just in shock,” said Wallace, a former guard for the Georgia Tech women’s basketball team. “I was just in awe.”
Wallace says she’ll never forget Dec. 29, 2014.
The day she entered the game needing nine more points to become the 27th 1,000-point scorer in Georgia Tech women’s basketball history. The day she tore her Anterior Cruciate Ligament, or ACL. The day of her final collegiate career game as a Yellow Jacket.
The Jackets won the game against Lipscomb University, but Wallace lost the rest of her season. She spent the next year recovering in several phases of post-operative ACL rehabilitation.
“Twenty or thirty years ago, it was an injury where people may not get to play,” said Dr. John “X” Xerogeanes, Chief of Sports Medicine at Emory Hospital. “Now, it’s something that’s career delaying, not career-ending.”
Between 250,000 and 300,000 ACL injuries occur every year, and most come from athletes, Dr. X says.
But to Wallace, this was no surprise. The surprise was that she acquired the injury immediately after reaching a milestone in her final season while taking a contact-free shot.
“I really think this process is just teaching me patience,” Sydney said. “Just how to be a better person, being positive and just believing that good things can come out of bad things.”
She entered her senior year with a list of accolades including ACC All-Freshman and ACC Newcomer Watch List. As a freshman, she set the Georgia Tech NCAA tournament record with 32 points against No. 1 ranked Baylor in the Sweet 16.
“I know it had to be hard for Syd, because I’m looking at Sydney Wallace, and I’m thinking, ‘This is not the way this is supposed to end,'” head coach oach MaChelle Joseph said. “This is a kid who put us on our back and led us to the Sweet 16…To lose her and to watch her have to watch her team struggle at times, because we don’t have that senior person on the floor has been really tough.”
Wallace never expected such an anticlimactic ending in her career at Tech. Her teammates didn’t either.
On Wallace’s senior night, Georgia Tech beat the Duke Blue Devils for the first time since Feb.27, 1994. Joseph motivated the team to win the game for Sydney during an emotional pregame speech, and it happened.
Although Wallace couldn’t physically contribute on the court, she managed to cheer from the sideline.
Today, Wallace is back in the gym playing ball. She says she’s 100 percent recovered, thanks to the support from the Georgia Tech women’s basketball staff including Joseph, conditioning coach Scott McDonald, athletic trainer Felicia Tucker and others.
Wallace signed a training camp contract in April with the WNBA’s Minnesota Lynx, making her one step closer to her dreams.
“Things will get hard at times but you can’t give up,” Wallace said. “You got to keep going because it’s not going to be hard for long.”