From Russia With Dunk

In evaluating today's prep power forwards, there seems to be a growing diversion in talents and skills. One group prefers to camp out on the perimeter and face up like wings; another group lives in the paint and muscles their way to points and rebounds. Every once in a while, though, you find a special player who takes the best of both worlds. That player in the 2005 class is symbolically also the union of two countries...

In today's world of academic admissions restrictions for Stanford Basketball, it has been thought of many a fan that Mike Montgomery should look into recruiting overseas. Maybe the domestic talent pool of premier student-athletes is not deep enough to sustain the current Cardinal success. Fortunately, it looks like at least one European talent has come across the ocean to make that search a little easier.

Artem Wallace was born Artem Terechov and lived in St. Petersburg, Russia until American philanthropist Gayle Wallace passed through and happened upon him. After a friendship was struck, Wallace and Terechov's single mother agreed to send Artem to Toledo, Washington for a year as an exchange student for exposure to American culture, education and basketball. Sadly, Mrs. Terechov was stricken with cancer and died that year. What started as a temporary stay became a permanent home with the Wallace family adopted the Russian.

That freshman year was a difficult one for the student-athlete, and school was not his biggest focus.

"I thought it would be just one year in the States," Wallace admits. "And the bulk of my education was still waiting for me in Russia."

He buckled down and garnered a 3.8 GPA his sophomore year at Toledo High School and has repeated the same his first semester in this junior year. His cumulative GPA has risen each semester since his residence became permanent in America, and he today boasts a 3.4 cumulative GPA - still on the rise.

"School actually comes real easy for me," the Russian-educated high school junior describes. "I most like math and science, and I finished all the math they can offer here by my sophomore year. I took physics my freshman year and then biology; now I am taking chemistry. I can't remember the last time I had to bring homework home with me. I can finish just about everything at school."

Wallace is aiming for a 1200-1300 on the SAT, which he will take on May 1, and with his story and academic profile, he is quickly emerging as one of Stanford's brightest recruitable stars in this 2005 class.

Ever since scouts and coaches caught a glimpse of Wallace last summer, he has been hailed as a consensus top power forward on the West Coast. He is a four-star national prospect according to TheInsiders, and he has been ranked #1 among power forwards out West by Tracy Pierson and Greg Hicks in this class. A big reason why he has such a hot profile is his exceptional skills, strength and athleticism in both the high post and low post.

Back in Russia, the young hoopster played on the perimeter and excelled as a shooter, but on his high school team in the States, he is the tallest player on the roster and plays predominately in the low post with his back to the basket.

"I have a pretty good drop-step and I'm working on my jump hook," the 6'8" 235-pounder describes. "I love to shoot three's but haven't had the chance to do that here. I face up during the summer with my AAU team, and I shoot 300 shots per day every day."

For the majority of the season, Wallace has been scoring more than half the team's points and it was not until a late district game that a teammate for the first time all year outscored him. He had 20 points in that game, while a teammate scored 21.

He has averaged 25 points and 16 rebounds on the season, despite facing an unending rash of double- and triple-team defenses. Toledo's most recent game was the district semifinals last Friday, which saw him triple-teamed almost every minute he was on the floor. He scored 18 points and ripped down 23 boards.

"It's tough to operate down low against those defenses," he laments. "I like to get the ball outside and take my defender off the dribble. I have a pretty quick first step."

With such a dominating and versatile inside-outside game, it comes as no surprise that Wallace is receiving heavy recruiting interest up and down the Pac-10. Just during this playoff run for the 18-4 Toledo team, college coaches from Arizona, Oregon, Washington and Washington State have sat in the stands to watch him.

"I get mail from most of the Pac-10," he declares. "Not much form Stanford in a while other than the articles and stuff they send. Not much personal."

Unlike many contemporaries in the junior class, Wallace has very few preconceived notions about the multitude of schools on his case. In fact, he did not watch any college basketball before this year, so he is still trying to learn about who does what.

"I really have no idea where I will go," he protests. "I'd probably like to stay in the West, probably in the Pac-10. I'm thinking I might make my decision before my senior season, since a friend has told me about how coaches will be able to start calling me all the time. I don't want that during my senior season, so I'd like to make a decision by November. And right now, I don't really want to think about it too much during this season. It's a distraction."

Wallace says that he wants to go to a program that will improve him as a player, while balancing a strong education.

"I know Stanford is really high academically, which is a plus," he comments. "I don't know how long I can play basketball, and it would be nice to have a strong degree there to get me a job."

While Wallace is one of the most talented and regarded players on the West Coast, he does not have any scholarship offers that have been directly communicated to him just yet. He notes, however, that Washington has supposedly communicated a verbal offer through his AAU coach. Wallace plays for the ICA Panthers, based out of Portland, OR.

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