TOC: Eric Wallace Spotlight

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- Sometimes expectations in the world of AAU basketball can be a burden. Such was the case Friday night for heralded rising junior Eric Wallace.

While he was hesitant to admit it afterwards, the pressure got to Wallace in the opening session of the Tournament of Champions, as his D-One team lost in its opener.

"At times [I feel pressure], but I just have to remember that there's actually no pressure upon me, and I just need to go out and perform the best I can," Wallace said postgame.

After a couple early mid-range jumpers didn't fall, he began to force the issue and the result was not what the Dean E. Smith Center crowd expected from the proclaimed future star.

Six points, on 2-of-12 shooting.

He has been touted as having the potential to be the state's best-ever. He has worked out with LeBron James. He has received a scholarship offer from Roy Williams prior to his sophomore season.

All this has led to premature hype and growing expectations, as he begins to take the national stage this summer.

Wallace could realize his potential and be all that has been projected. But as he showed on Friday night, he's not there yet. And it's hard to fault him for not yet living up to the expectations of others, when he has been so dedicated to improve.

"I've been in the gym constantly after school," he said. "Coach has had to run me off of the campus a lot [laughing], but I'm trying to develop my body. I think I've gained about five pounds of muscle."

And it should be noted, while national analysts are still waiting for a huge performance from Wallace on the national AAU stage, his Friday night performance was well below par for him (and he did have four rebounds, three impressive blocks and a thunderous dunk that rocked the Smith Center).

"I feel as though I didn't perform to the "A" game level out there, but I need to come back hard – stronger – tomorrow," Wallace said. "My plan is always to get better. Every time I step on the court, [it doesn't matter] whether it's a win or a loss, as long as we always get better. We took a hard one tonight, but we didn't come out and perform, and they took advantage and came out with the 'W.'

"We're going to come in tomorrow and put this behind us. That was a hard loss, and we need to re-focus and get back on track and play how D-One Sports is supposed to play."

His poise and maturity off the court are impressive, and his positive outlook is likely to lead to a better result when his team returns to the court.

"With the expectations have come not just pressure, but great opportunities, too," D-One coach Brian Clifton reflected.

Saturday morning will provide Wallace the opportunity to put his first game behind him and perhaps showcase the "A" game that observers are eagerly waiting for.

Eric Wallace Profile

(Jeff Markman contributed to this report.)

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