Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXII, No. 34
 
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
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SHINING FUTURE: Judson Wallace looks to pass the ball during his senior season on the Princeton University basketball team in 2004-05. The 6’10 Wallace recently took a step towards his dream of someday playing in the National Basketball Association as he competed for the Phoenix Suns in the 2008 NBA Summer League. Wallace, who has been playing pro ball in Italy since graduating from PU, averaged 6.6 points and 5.6 rebounds a game for the Suns. In the upcoming season, Wallace will be playing for Benetton Treviso of Italy’s Lega A.

After Success in NBA Summer League, PU Alum Wallace on a 5-Year Pro Plan

Jon Solomon

For Judson Wallace, the “three-year plan” has become “the five-year plan.”

Despite enduring a disappointing senior season for the Princeton University men’s basketball team in 2004-05, Wallace immediately set his sights on playing in the NBA by 2008.

The 6’10” Wallace, who has been playing pro ball in Italy since graduating from PU, took a step closer towards achieving his goal with a successful five-game campaign playing for the Phoenix Suns in the 2008 NBA Summer League.

Starting at forward for the Suns in a slate of games played on the UNLV campus in Las Vegas, Wallace averaged 6.6 points and 5.6 rebounds a game as Phoenix posted a 2-3 record.

“I’m pretty happy,” said Wallace, reflecting from his parents’ home in Atlanta, where he was enjoying his very brief off-season among family and friends.

Wallace’s experience with Phoenix was more productive than his time as a Houston Rocket in the 2006 Summer League, where he was scoreless in 22 total minutes of play as the Rockets’ starters monopolized the available playing time.

“I think game-by-game [with Phoenix], as I got more experience I got better and better, and then in the last game I thought I played pretty well,” said Wallace, who scored 1,090 points in his Tiger career, the 16th-best total in program history

In Phoenix’s final game, against the Washington Wizards, Wallace connected on his first three three-point shots, scoring 15 points, snatching nine rebounds, and swiping four steals in a 88-69 victory.

With first round draft pick Robin Lopez away from the Suns for the afternoon, working out against Team USA, Wallace had space to move inside and more plays were called for him.

“Everybody knows going in that Summer League is about developing draft picks, so if you’re not one of the guys who was drafted, you’re not going to get a lot of shots,” said Wallace.

“Early on, I wasn’t even taking my open shots. I was trying to make the extra pass, stuff like that. I was a little tentative. I’ve never thought of myself as a selfish player, so I have no problem passing up shots and getting those guys the ball. D.J. [Strawberry], Alando [Tucker], and Robin, I knew they were going to get all the shots. That’s who we ran all the plays for. I just tried to go out there and play real good defense and rebound and score when I could.”

Wallace left Las Vegas with a better idea of what he needs to do between now and next summer to put himself in a position to join an NBA roster.

“[Suns assistant coach] Igor Kokoskov said I need to get to the point where my three pointer is just dead-eye and I need to work on closing out a little,” added Wallace. “Other than that he loved the way I play and my chemistry.[Assistant coach] Dan Majerle said I impressed him. He did not have many expectations for me and I showed him a lot.”

Wallace’s success this past season with Pierrel Capo d’Orlando of Italy’s Lega A caught the Suns’ attention. Wallace was the leading rebounder in top Italian league, averaging 10.7 boards to go along with 14.4 points per game.

“[The Suns] reached out to my agents during the season,” said Wallace. Towards the end of the season they said ‘’We’d like to take a look at Jud’ to my agent.”

Despite averaging just 4.8 rebounds a game during his Princeton career, Wallace had confidence in his ability to go to the glass.

“I think I’ve always been a good rebounder,” Wallace asserted. “In the Princeton system, offensive rebounds were tough to come by. A lot of times as center I was out at the top of the key.”

In Italy, Wallace has made the most out of the more freewheeling style of play.

“I think I have a pretty good motor,” said Wallace. “Rebounding is all about creating opportunities. I try to go after every rebound, which is creating the most opportunities for me. I’m not the most athletic guy. I am not the strongest guy. I think I just have a pretty good nose for the ball and I never stop. I won’t compare myself to Dennis Rodman, but it is a similar mentality.”

This season, Wallace will suit up in Italy for Benetton Treviso, where he has signed a two-year contract. Wallace will be joined by two fellow Americans - former Towson University guard Gary Neal and Wright State guard DaShaun Wood.

“[Benetton] has a whole new team this season. I think the town is going to be really excited. My expectations are to win. I think we’re going to have a good year,” Wallace said.

Wallace will line up against another Princeton product in Lega A, center Mason Rocca ‘00, who is in his eighth season playing professionally in Italy. Rocca is making his debut with Armani Jeans Milano this year.

“Mason is a warrior,” said Wallace. “Thankfully [as a forward], I don’t really have to guard him, but I always tell the people that guard him, ‘you have to box that dude out’ because he’s got an unbelievable motor and he goes so hard. He’s given me a couple little pointers here and there.”

Next year at this time, Wallace hopes to still be building off his professional successes, setting his plan for its fifth and final stage.

“It started out as a three-year plan,” admitted Wallace. “I went to Vegas because I wanted to open some eyes and show some people that I could play on any level, just to set it up for next year. I am going to put some money in my pocket, try and get as good as I can possibly be for next summer and that’s my summer to make it in the NBA. Now it is a five-year plan, but as long as I get to the NBA, the plan is successful. We’ll see how it goes.”

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