Wallace turning the corner

Published 12:11 am Friday, April 3, 2009

After leading Wallace Community College to its first postseason appearance since 2002 , basketball players Chris Walker and Michael Acoff have reeled in awards.

Both were named first team all-Region 22 and first team all-conference. Both will also participate in the Alabama Community College Conference All-Star game on April 18.

One other fact applies to the Wallace duo. They entered a struggling program together and were key cogs in turning it around. The Patriots finished 3-27 last year, but improved to 13-20 with a playoff win in 2009.

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“We didn’t have anything to lose because we hadn’t been to the playoffs in so long.,” said Walker.

“The reputation we had when we came in our freshman year was that Wallace wasn’t good,” Acoff added.

As the season progressed, Wallace showed marked improvement. Whether picking up wins or giving established teams a scare, the Patriots made strides to erase their stigma of being an easy win.

“Players who want it more. That’s the difference between the first and last year,” said Acoff. “We didn’t have players who were hungry. This year, we had that.”

Another key was the offensive influence of first-year coach Ronald Lane. He brought in a fast-paced, aggressive style of play that both players preferred over the clock-eating system used in their freshman year.

“This year, it sped up a little bit more,” said Acoff. “We dribble down and play ball. I enjoyed it.

Awards committees are not the only observers that noticed the Patriots’ improvement. College scouts have come calling as well. Both have earned offers from Montana State, Alabama State, Tuskegee and Miles College.

Walker, who led the Patriots with 18.7 points and 13 rebounds per game, holds additional offers from Florida A&M, Troy, South Alabama, Southeast Missouri State and others.

Lane may be more excited about the accolades than his players are. Acoff and Walker will not be at Wallace next year, but Lane can use their honors — and the Patriots’ on court improvement — as a recruiting tool.

“I think that solidifies to the ACCC that Wallace is regaining its status,” said Lane. “The tide is turning and Wallace is on the upswing.”

Lane took over at Wallace in mid-May, about a month after the basketball signing period. This will be his first official recruiting class, and he wants to focus his efforts on the Black Belt. The Patriots’ newfound success may give him the advantage he needs.

“Right now, some eyes have been opened,” said Lane. “A lot of people think you have to leave Selma to become whatever you want to become. That’s not necessarily true.”