Nov. 13, 2011
By Jon Cooper
– The 2011-12 Georgia Tech Women’s Basketball Team is looking forward to playing its home games at the Arena at Gwinnett — the team got off to a superb start Friday night, routing Alabama State, 97-37, in its opener and went 2-0 by blowing out Old Dominion, 87-56, Sunday afternoon.
Playing there means even more for true freshman guard Sydney Wallace.
“My house is about 10 minutes from here,” said the John’s Creek native and 2010-11 First-Team All-State Selection at Northview High School. “The state tournament is played here. Every year I would come out and watch the championship game. I never played here but now I get a chance to play here so it’s overwhelming. It’s really exciting.”
She shared that excitement Friday, with her brand of high-speed and often breath-taking basketball that brought the crowd to life in a game that was basically decided four minutes in by the Jackets’ game-opening 12-2 run.
Playing in front of a contingent that included her mom, dad and younger sister, Wallace entered the game at the 3:44 mark of the first half, replacing star guard Ty Marshall, and needed only 58 seconds to score her first collegiate points, burying a jumper to give Tech a 14-4 lead. After committing her first collegiate foul on the ensuing possession, she made the kind of play that has endeared her to Head Coach MaChelle Joseph and will to future crowds attending Jackets games.
She swiped the ball from Hornets guard Durriya Shields, then turned on the jets, broke away and hit a lay-up to open an 18-4 lead.
Wallace finished with a team-high-tying 13 points (point guard Dawnn Maye also had 13) on 5-for-11 shooting and hit 3-of-4 from the foul line. She also had three steals (one fewer than team-leader Maye).
She also showed no sign of being intimidated by the physical play.
“I thought it was going to be very physical, which it was,” she said. “The college level is more physical and a lot faster. So you just have to get adjusted to it and once you get a feel for the game then you’re set.”
Wallace followed up her debut with a solid effort against Old Dominion, scoring 12 points, with five rebounds and three steals in 19 minutes.
Called the “quickest player I have ever coached” by Joseph, Wallace feels her speed will help her make a quick adjustment to the faster college game.
“I was able to adjust really fast because I was always a level ahead of everybody in high school,” said Wallace, who graduated as Northview’s all-time leading scorer (2,090 points) while also leading the team in assists and steals all three years. “You have to use different levels of quickness at different times. You have to change speeds when you’re dribbling to get to different spots. So I think my quickness helps me to get out on the fast break, push the ball up the court and get fast points and get back on defense and play great defense.”
Joseph is eager to watch Wallace’s progression but isn’t about to rush her.
“Right now, Sydney’s trying to figure out where the locker room is, what type of offense, where she’s supposed to be on defense,” she said. “But once Sydney figures all that out she’s going to be a very special player. I think you can see that.”
Marshall, who was in Wallace’s shoes last season, believes what the freshman saw in Friday’s debut was the perfect way to break into college basketball.
“I think it was a good way for Sydney to get adjusted, a good way to break her in to playing in the ACC,” she said. “I just told her it’s another game. She’s got to go out there and play. She knows how to play basketball. She knows what she has to do. Go out there, no worries and play the way she knows how to play.”
Getting to don the White and Gold and play in front of her family and crowds that she used to be a part of add up to what should be a memorable freshman season.
“I believe with local high schools, there will be a lot more people that will turn out for the games,” she said. “There is a really big population in this city. I feel like our season is going to be great with all the fan support.”