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Monday, March 26, 2007

The 180 Player

For me, one of the most satisfying aspects of the Hoyas' Final Four run has been the vindication of Jonathan Wallace. All year we've heard how Georgetown couldn't make a deep tournament run because their guard-play was subpar. But the guards, especially Wallace, have been solid all season. Jon's 19 point, 7 assist performance in Sunday's game should finally silence the critics. Jonathan is a big time player who is not only physically talented, but extremely smart.

Andy Katz gives the GU guards some well-deserved love in his Around The Rim column on ESPN.com this morning.

EAST AFTERMATH
By Andy Katz

Who said the Hoyas were just Jeff Green and Roy Hibbert? Jonathan Wallace's tying 3-pointer should send a strong message that the Hoyas can play with anybody's perimeter.

"I just was able to step back and knock it down," said Wallace, whose 7-of-11 shooting helped Georgetown to a stellar 57 percent from the field.

Wallace (19 points), Jessie Sapp (15 points) and Jeremiah Rivers (Doc's son), a defensive and steady presence, held their own and more against Carolina's vaunted Ty Lawson and Wayne Ellington.

"It seemed people kept counting us down," Rivers said of the guards. "Everyone kept saying that our guards weren't very good. But we've been solid all year."

People "in the know" have recognized how good Wallace is all year. Jay Bilas's love affair with the Boy From 'Bama is well documented. Rick Majerus, who knows college basketball almost as well as he knows buffets, has also been singing J-Wall's praises. He refers to him as a "180 Player," because the sum of his Field-Goal Percentage, Free-Throw Percentage, and Three-Point Percentage is over 180 (it is actually 187, or at least it was as of last week). According to Majerus there may not be another 180 Player in the country. I don't know if that's true, but I'll take his word for it.

The point is, Jonathan Wallace took a big risk coming to Georgetown with very little promised to him in return. And all he has done is offer up some of the most dependable play you could ask for. I don't know what will happen in the next few games, but I'm ecstatic that Jonathan has finally gotten his chance to shine on the national stage.

Update: I wanted to add a reference to Luke Winn's article on Georgetown's win, which appears on SI.com. In addition to recounting everyone's favorite story about Jeff and Tyler's visit to the Wallace family farm, it again provides great insight into Wallace's depth of character.

A Hoya Revival at the Meadowlands

The most level head I could find amid the chaos was that of Wallace, the 6-foot-1 junior guard with a very un-Georgetown like background. He was raised on an 80-acre cattle farm in rural Alabama, and was the student government president at Sparkman High School in Huntsville, before coming to Washington DC to lead the Hoyas back to prominence. Green, in his postgame interviews, recalled a trip he and Tyler Crawford took this summer to the Wallace farm this summer, where "one big, tan-and-white cow that had a loose, dangling horn and just stared at me and Tyler."

The odd man on the Hoyas' mostly urban roster, though, had hit the biggest shot of the day, losing Lawson beneath a screen and drilling a three from the left wing to tie the game at 81-81 with 31.2 seconds left. Before telling his cow tale, Green had affectionately called Wallace, who averaged 11.0 points on the season but had 19 on 7-of-11 shooting on Sunday, "the best player on the team, to me."

And so it was Wallace who, when describing that shot, did not yell or spin a yarn about envisioning it in a dream. He simply said that it came, like most of the Hoyas' other clutch shots down the stretch, within the flow of their offense. "That's a practice shot," he said. "I shoot that shot every day."

* * *

In the tunnel afterward, Wallace made his way toward the Arena's exit without as much as a whoop or a holler, carrying his duffel bag and happily wearing his Final Four hat. Big John, who was waiting for his son to emerge, stopped Wallace and asked him, why, in the postgame press conference, he hadn't told the reporters, "I've been hitting big shots like that all year!"

Wallace shrugged his shoulders, and offered a hushed reply that seemed to appease the iconic former coach. Such boasting would have been uncharacteristic for the steady pilot of the Hoyas' unstoppable offense. And besides, he had more pressing things to do than bragging -- like catching the team bus outside, returning to DC, and preparing for the madness that awaits in Atlanta.

2 comments:

IPB said...

One of the things I know we've reiterated on this blog time and time again is how Wallace is hands-down, from a basketball standpoint, the most intelligent player on our team and the most fundamentally sound. No knock on Jeff or my man Roy but this is a fact. He rarely, and I mean rarely, makes a mistake. And he does it in a quietly confident, business-like fashion.

I am glad this tournament is showcasing to the nation what kind of player he is and what he is capable of.

I cannot say enough positive things about him and feel privileged to have had the opportunity to watch him grow and develop over the last three years.

He is our silent assassin.

Johnny Limarzi said...

I agree with everything IPB has said, and you can't say enough good things about Jonathan Wallace. I was actually up in New Jersey for the games, and there was a nice article about Wallace in the local paper.

But about being the 180 Player, just doing a quick search on ESPN.com, i found that there are a few other 180 players, most noticeably Pete Campbell from Butler who amazingly has 191, shooting over 50% from both the field and 3-point land, as well as shooting 87% from the stripe.

I was hoping Jon would be the only one with 40, 50, 90, so maybe he could have a whole lot of free throws this weekend.