Drawing comparisons to Jrue Holiday and a Hall of Fame NFL player, Thunder’s Cason Wallace checks every box

When Cason Wallace was a freshman at Richardson Excessive College, Oklahoma State coach Mike Boynton visited and requested to see him play. Wallace hadn’t turned 15 but or performed a single recreation of highschool basketball; it was nonetheless soccer season.

“We pulled him out of soccer,” Richardson coach Kevin Lawson stated. “He will get on the basketball ground and I used to be like, ‘Oh my goodness.'”

Lawson had recognized him since Wallace was a fifth or sixth grader, taking pictures on the facet at apply when his older, brother, Keaton, performed at Richardson. Lawson had watched him play in junior excessive and thought he had potential. As quickly as he bought on the court docket in entrance of Boynton, although, it was clear he was higher than everyone else.

Wallace performed quarterback, vast receiver and free security, however left soccer behind on the finish of that season to give attention to basketball. Had he gone the opposite approach, “he’d be enjoying Energy 5 soccer,” Lawson stated.

Two days after the Oklahoma City Thunder traded as much as the No. 10 spot within the 2023 NBA Draft for Wallace, a reporter requested coach Mark Daigneault for a participant comp.

“He jogs my memory of Ed Reed,” Daigneault said.

The soccer participant?

“Ed Reed, the security, yeah. He is like Ed Reed on the market. He is simply bought a beat on the ball. He is bought nice self-discipline, he is the place he is presupposed to be, he is not reckless, he is not doing his personal factor. However when he smells the ball, he is a hawk on the ball.”

Lawson likes the comparability. Wallace’s “instincts are off the charts,” he stated. “Ball within the air, he’ll go get it. I’ve at all times stated that I felt like he had sticky on the top of his fingers, like this bizarre deal the place he’ll stick his hand out and he’ll simply get a chunk of the ball after which it simply suctions as much as him.”

One other comparability, made on the eve of the draft by Wallace himself: your favorite NBA player’s favorite defender.

Jrue Holiday is anyone that I watch lots,” Wallace stated on the Nationwide Basketball Gamers Affiliation workplace in Manhattan, after a Jr. NBA clinic throughout draft week. “How he controls the tempo on offense. And defensively, he will get after it each play and he guards the very best participant.”

Wallace stands 6-foot-4 and has a 6-9 wingspan. At Kentucky final season and Richardson earlier than that, he defended taller gamers with no concern. “Jrue is taken into account probably the greatest defenders within the league due to that proper there, and that is the place I wish to be at some point,” he stated. Since he was a sophomore, Lawson has advised associates that Wallace is the subsequent Vacation.

“I stated, ‘This child will not be scoring probably the most factors, and he is crucial participant,'” Lawson stated. “‘He is so powerful and guards. And he is scoring 16 to 18 however he is doing every part. And it isn’t tremendous flashy. He is Jrue Vacation. I am telling you guys, he is Jrue Vacation.'”

From a younger age, Wallace made protection a part of his id. “My dad taught me that there was a will to wish to,” Wallace stated. “And that is one thing that I wished to do. I wished to be a special particular person on the court docket. I wished to be the one to step as much as the problem and settle for the tougher process.” This isn’t the way in which most children strategy the sport, however, to Lawson, it’s a pleasure factor.

“It actually does matter to him that you simply respect him,” Lawson stated. “He is aware of deep down, if he can lock you up, take the ball from you, trigger you to actually wrestle offensively, then you definately respect him. And that respect does not should be stated, does not should be proven. However when two gamers play towards one another — and you’ll see it once you coach, man — once they go eye to eye, Cason has earned that man’s respect. Or, more often than not at the highschool degree, Cason owns that man.”

Wallace performs ‘no-agenda basketball’

What if Wallace had approached the sport otherwise? What if, all alongside, he had been taking extra pictures, enjoying with extra aptitude?

“I would not be right here at the moment if that was the case,” Wallace stated. “That is not my recreation. That is not how I see basketball. So that will be me appearing out of character, truthfully.”

Lawson stated that Wallace sees basketball like a coach. Earlier in his highschool profession, this might need price him some recognition. “He wasn’t tremendous excessive on the nationwide rankings his sophomore and junior 12 months,” Lawson stated. “A part of that’s as a result of Twitter likes guys that dunk and guys that shoot actually lengthy 3s and look super-freaky athletic, and that is who will get excessive on the rankings.” Wallace finally turned a consensus five-star recruit, incomes consideration for the run that his AAU workforce, ProSkills, went on between his junior and senior 12 months.

“When actual [basketball] folks watch, they go, ‘Dang, that dude is sweet,'” Lawson stated. “And it isn’t the spotlight that you simply’re attempting to place on the market, it is all of the stuff that goes into it. It is the diving on unfastened balls, it is simply getting a chunk of the ball. Or the toughness, not letting anyone get by you.”

On draft evening, Thunder normal supervisor Sam Presti said that Wallace does “all of the exhausting issues about enjoying basketball, the issues that lots of people simply do not wish to do or should push themselves to do,” and he seems to do them naturally. Presti praised his off-ball defensive IQ, kick-ahead passes, two-hand contests and willingness to field out, saying that he performs “no-agenda basketball.”

Two days later, Daigneault called Wallace “a fairly unassuming two-way participant: he simply does profitable issues, whether or not it is seen or invisible.” He also said that there’s “quite a lot of energy to the simplicity he performs with.” Seated subsequent to the 19-year-old on the podium for his introductory press convention, Presti said that Wallace’s story is a lesson for younger gamers: “This man bought drafted within the prime 10 by simply being an unbelievable workforce participant. A man that makes the proper play on a regular basis.”

ProSkills coach Jeff Webster stated he was by no means frightened concerning the rankings. “I at all times knew, I stated, ‘You are gonna get all of it in the long run,'” Webster stated. “And draft evening confirmed it.” Even main as much as the draft, although, there have been combined messages in mock drafts and scouting studies. The knock on him was that he had restricted upside. His comps, although, had been gamers like Vacation, Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleetall of whom are champions and All-Stars, and Derrick Whitewho begins for a contender and simply made First Staff All-Protection. What do these guys signify if not upside?

In Oklahoma Metropolis, Wallace will be part of a stacked backcourt that already features a flat-out celebrity and a 20-year-old passing wizard. Fortuitously, he has the talent set to enhance each of them. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Josh Giddey are already used to enjoying on and off the ball, and their measurement, mixed with Wallace’s potential to protect up, signifies that all three guards can share the court docket. Oklahoma Metropolis’s offense is a drive-and-kick onslaught, and the entrance workplace has spent the previous few years constructing a roster filled with younger gamers who can shoot, go and dribble — 7-1 create-a-player Chet Holmgren included.

“Basketball is unquestionably non-positional now,” Wallace stated. “It is concerning the gamers which might be on the court docket, how they complement one another. You are not going to have the ball the entire offensive possession, so it does not matter in the event you’re the 1 or 2, 3, 4, you are simply on the market enjoying.”

In highschool, Wallace was clearly Richardson’s greatest level guard, however as a result of there have been gamers who may solely play level guard, he generally performed off the ball. “I used to be at his exercise with the Mavericksand the scouts requested me how would he be if he performed with Luka,” Webster stated. “And I stated, ‘He would be the Cason Wallace that he is at all times been. As a result of he’ll discover out what the workforce wants and he’ll do it at a excessive degree.'” He performed each the 1 and the two at Kentucky, and he does not care what you name him.

“So long as I am on the court docket, my presence is understood,” Wallace stated.

‘He is only a chief that folks observe’

After his first name with somebody in search of intel on Wallace, Lawson frightened that he had come off as too enamored along with his personal participant. Lawson wished his reward to imply one thing, to not be dismissed because the gushing of an overexuberant highschool coach. When he had his subsequent name, nonetheless, he didn’t maintain again. He as an alternative issued a warning, one he’d repeat many occasions to NBA personnel.

“I at all times begin it by saying, ‘Hear, I do know I am gonna sound just like the coach that simply loves his child, and I have never coached NBA guys and he is my NBA man, so I really like him and he is the best ever,'” Lawson stated. “‘However the factor about it’s: It is all true. There is not a trainer on campus that would not like to have this dialog with you proper now. He is so respectful, does all his work and he is only a chief that folks observe.'”

In Wallace’s freshman 12 months of highschool, the workforce had dinner at Lawson’s home. After consuming, all of his teammates went to the lounge to observe Texas Tech play towards Duke.

“I used to be wanting round, I used to be like, ‘The place’s Cason?'” Lawson stated. “And Cason continues to be within the different room, sitting on the desk with my two boys and my spouse, simply hanging out, speaking to them. It is a 15-year-old. I used to be like, ‘Cason, you possibly can go in there.’ And he is like, ‘No, I am cool, man. I wish to hang around with your loved ones.'”

Wallace has “that ‘it’ issue that different folks simply wish to gravitate in direction of,” Lawson stated. That entire season may have been extremely awkward, on condition that the upperclassmen needed to “hand the keys over to this little 15-year-old,” however “it was fairly simple as a result of they identical to him, as a result of they respect him. They like him and he is making them higher.”

As troublesome because it is perhaps to consider, Lawson stated that, looking back, he did not respect Wallace sufficient. “I used to be spoiled,” he stated, to the purpose the place, when Wallace got here up with a two-handed chasedown block, it did not register as a shock. Later in Wallace’s highschool profession, Lawson knew he may at all times ask Wallace to say one thing to the workforce if it wanted a spark, and he knew that everyone would reply.

“If we had been selecting groups, he would choose guys that weren’t the highest guys in order that he may, No. 1, problem himself, however No. 2, make them profitable. It was a dream come true to educate him. It is not one thing that occurs on a regular basis. These issues, on prime of the truth that he’s the very best defender within the state of Texas on the time, the very best perimeter defender on this draft class. He checks each field.”

In pre-draft interviews, some NBA teams requested Wallace to check himself to different prospects. Are you a greater shooter than Participant X? Extra constant than Participant Y? Wallace doesn’t lack for confidence, however they might not get him to criticize anyone else with a view to construct himself up. He does flip into a special, way more intense particular person when he is on the court docket, however, regardless of the setting, he’s safe about who he’s.

Earlier than he knew he was going to the Thunder, Wallace stated that he wished “to be one of many leaders on the workforce, regardless of the place I’m going.” He intends to be “full of life on the court docket or on the bench, in apply, the locker room.” He believes that, no matter his function or whether or not or not pictures are falling, he can discover a strategy to “make an affect on a recreation one way or the other.”

“He is like, ‘I’ll show that I can do it the proper approach,'” Lawson stated. “‘I can play basketball the proper approach, and I shall be profitable at it. And I’ll get the issues that I would like.'”



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Revealed : 2023-06-30 10:00:29

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