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Memorable experience for Wallace

By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY

Daily News

It was a win-win proposition for Kendal Wallace.

Wallace, LaGrange College’s men’s basketball coach, got to see the world, and coach the game he loves.

Wallace was the head coach for the 19-and-under USA South team that participated in the United World Games in Europe last week.

Wallace was one of seven coaches selected by STUDENTathleteWorld (SaWUA) to lead a team in the prestigious tournament.

Wallace’s team made it out of pool play and finished with a 3-3 record, an impressive accomplishment considering the team only had a few practices before playing its tournament opener.

“Most of the teams we were playing have been together six months or longer,” Wallace said. “And one of them was the Swedish national team, and they’ve played together for quite some time. We were able to go 3-3 in six games, and a couple of our games were close and down to the wire and we were able to pull those out. They did a really good job of listening in the huddle at the end of the game and executing what I drew up on the board. They were very resilient young kids, and they still have a lot to learn as well.”

Most of the games were played in Austria, although some of them were contested in Italy and Germany.

Wallace got to know his players well since they spent so much time together over the course of the week.

“I really enjoyed working with the young people there,” Wallace said. “My team came from all over the south. We had a guy from Texas, New Orleans, one from Mississippi, two or three from Alabama, a couple of kids from Georgia, and two kids from Florida. We had a wide range of kids, and it was a good experience to get to know them and help them mesh together.”

Wallace enjoyed the challenge of teaching high-school players after so many years of working exclusively with college athletes.

“I was very happy to be able to get back to the basics of coaching,” Wallace said. “After working here eight years at LaGrange, I keep thinking I have to reinvent the wheel. Here, I just kept things simple.”

Wallace added that “the first day I may have put a little too much on them. After that, I realized we just needed to do some simple things. I think that helped me as a coach to go back and re-evaluate what I do here. It’ll help me maybe keep things more simple on our level as well.”

Wallace also appreciated the opportunity to meet some of the other coaches from across the country.

“It was phenomenal,” Wallace said. “One of the best things I enjoyed about the experience was networking with other coaches. I was able to meet two high-school coaches in Georgia, and we got to know each other well. There was a Division III coach from Nebraska-Wesleyan and I got know him. I met a high-school coach from North Carolina. The networking was one of the major impacts of it.”

Wallace added that “another great experience was being able to overcome a language barrier. There were teams from Mongolia, and Budapest, and different countries. We’ve all got a commonality in basketball.”

Wallace was pleased to represent LaGrange College in the tournament.

Wallace has a 110-83 record in seven seasons at LaGrange College, and he led the Panthers to four straight NCAA Division III tournament appearances from 2014 to 2017.

“I want the college to be proud of me, and I want the community to be proud of what we’re doing at the college,” Wallace said. “There were a lot of parents on the trip, and I spoke to them about LaGrange College, and spoke highly of the college, and they became more interested in what I did at the college. Now I have more kids interested in seeing what we’re doing at LaGrange College.

“Most of the kids are in high school and have a few years left, so they looked up the website and seeing how LaGrange College can fit into their future looks.”

As for the experience in the United World Games, it’s one Wallace would recommend to anyone.

“It was just amazing,” Wallace said. “They did everything first-class.”