TOC: Eric Wallace Spotlight

RALEIGH, N.C. – Not many players, no matter who they are, are worth a long, early morning drive to Carmichael Gym on the campus of N.C. State, especially with the inevitability of wrong turns and poorly marked campus routes inherent in most trips to Wolfpack country.

Then again, Eric Wallace is no ordinary player.

The precocious freshman wing from Kernersville (N.C.) Glenn is already a muscular 6-7 with broad shoulders and big-time athleticism, and his budding reputation places him among the best the state has produced in recent history.

That alone would be enough to make the trip, but there's much more to Wallace than his physical skills.

Sure, he can throw down nasty dunks, already handles the ball well on the perimeter, and has a smooth jump shot, and he boxes out well and corrals rebound after rebound with his long arms and strong hands. But, as Brian Clifton, coach of Wallace's D-One Sports AAU team, attests, there's also an outstanding person behind the imposing physique.

"He's an absolute treasure to coach, to have on the roster," Clifton said. "Eric's got a 3.8 GPA, a great family situation, and a lot of potential. The sky is going to be the limit for him.

"He's tremendous," Clifton added.

Modest almost to the point of being shy, Wallace will be the last person to pump himself up, no matter how talented he might be. He smiled bashfully when asked about his growing fame as if it couldn't really be him making headlines. "I just keep my head in my books and keep myself humble on the court," Wallace said.

In the same thread, rather than focus on his impressive offensive package or scintillating athleticism, Wallace focuses on a less showy part of his game when describing himself. "I think my defense [is the best part of my game], more than anything," Wallace said. "I'm trying to be the best out there on defense, and when I do get a chance to score, I just try to take it to the rack strong.

"But, I need to work on my left hand dribbling, my off-hand," Wallace added.

While Wallace was hesitant to talk about himself for fear of seeming boastful, Clifton couldn't help but talk highly of his future star. "He's tremendous," Clifton said. "He does everything he needs to do."

"He's got some great mentors around him, his dad being the biggest of all, and his high school coach, Lee Revis, does a great job with him," he added.

While college decisions are on the distant horizon for Wallace and his fellow members of the Class of 2007, he does have a few things he's looking for at the next level. "I'm looking for good academics and an organization that plays my type of ball," he said. "I'm looking at the Big East, the ACC -- good schools that have good basketball organizations and good academic organizations."

Despite growing up in ACC country, Wallace didn't have a childhood favorite. "I liked a lot of schools," he said diplomatically. "I didn't really go for one school in particular."

Wallace is just barely a quarter done with high school, but he's already got a rigorous workout schedule that pits him against current college players. "Cameron Bennerman, who plays here at NC State, and my brother, Dwon Clifton, who plays at North Carolina-Greensboro, formerly at Clemson, are guys that Eric works out with," Clifton said.

"We put him through individual work, probably about two days a week or so for about an hour and a half or two hours. Every night, it's pretty intense -- he's banging bodies with the likes of those guys," Clifton added.

"He's a humble kid that wants to play ball, wants to be a good teammate and to be a better person, no matter what he's doing," Clifton said. "Wherever he wants to go, whatever he wants to do, it's going to be right there for him."

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