If you are bewildered by the nearly three-month gap between this report and the last (first) time I wrote on Artem Wallace, who happens to be a four-star recruit rated the #1 power forward on the West Coast and a top 60 or 70 player nationally, then you are fully justified. I've been remiss in my reporting duties on this intriguing and talented 6'8" post player, who has an exciting combination of strength and skills. Last night I had a chance to catch up with him after he returned from a one-hour drive back from his practice with his AAU team in Portland, and he updated me on everything under the sun.
The last time you heard about Wallace on the court, he had hurt his knee in one of the early games in Las Vegas in April and was not the same player afterward.
"I had one decent game that I was pleased with, against the [Atlanta] Celtics," he summarizes of his play during the evaluation period. "I wasn't really able to get up as high or move as well with the injury. But now I'm up to full speed. The knee feels great and I'm playing really well."
One key for Wallace's improvement of late has gone beyond the rehabilitation of that knee. He admits that between the end of his junior season at Toledo High School and the April play with the Portland Panthers, he gained weight. You saw comments about how Wallace "looked bigger" in April, and that excites fans as they read about post players because we are all in a hurry to see physical maturation for the forwards and centers. But Wallace knows his body well enough to understand that the weight he added was not good weight. Independent of his knee injury, he felt something wrong.
"I've dropped 15 pounds and 4% body fat - now at 235," the Russian-born émigré reveals. "I have been working with a personal trainer and feel the best I have ever felt. I can get up higher now and feel much more explosive. This is a good weight for now, but I will probably get up to 245. It's important to put on good weight - muscle - to get there, though. Not fat like before. I have also been doing lots of shooting after school with a ball-return machine. I'm ready to go out and dominate right now."
Too bad for college coaches that they will not have a chance to see the reborn Wallace for some time. The next evaluation period does not start until July, though one school will have an up-close look at the exciting power forward. Wallace says that he will be at a camp at UCLA in June, as well as playing locally at the adidas Rose City Challenge in Portland (Ore.) and the NBA Players Association Camp in Richmond (Va.). July will have him busy with the Reebok ABCD Camp in New Jersey, the Reebok Big Time in Las Vegas and finally a Reebok event to wrap up the summer.
Most of the top AAU teams in the country are gearing up for a trip out to North Carolina in a couple weeks for the Bob Gibbons Tournament of Champions, but Wallace is not sure if the Portland Panthers have been invited or not. If not, he thinks they might slide down to Los Angeles for a regional Memorial Day Weekend event.
Wallace says that he had a host of coaches come through his school for on-campus visits during the contact period, as well. Washington, UCLA, Stanford, Oregon, Gonzaga and Utah are the ones he rattled off the top of his head. The Cardinal were represented by assistant coach Eric Reveno, and it looks like that visit plus recent correspondence has them making headway with the Toledo (Wash.) forward. When asked who are his current favorites, he named four schools and gave brief comments on each.
Stanford - "They are high up for their academics of course, and their basketball. It's hard to beat both with them."
Washington - "I kind of like them but don't know why. I guess because they are local and I am just around them. I like their head coach, and they have a good physics program. I am not sure, but I think I might major in physics and they seem to have a good program for that."
Gonzaga - "It's a nice small school with good basketball."
Utah - "They have a nice tradition at making big men better, which I really like."
Wallace is looking forward to taking his official visits but is uncertain when they will happen. May is already half over, and though Toledo High School has classes through mid-June, he has some basketball commitments already that month. Wallace says he would be open to taking trips this spring if they can still happen, but otherwise he wants to jump into them in August when he starts school again.
"I want to make my decision before my senior season starts, so all this recruiting does not interfere with that," he adds.
Assuming that he is unable to visit his favorites officially or unofficially before then, it would appear that the July period will be a critical one in Wallace's recruitment. He has a good number of West Coast schools on his case, but he still has a lot of potential he did not show them in April. I'll bet that things really heat up in July and August.
This is where fans of other schools stop reading, but where Cardinalmaniacs™ lean into their monitor. Wallace received a Stanford admissions application packet when Reveno came to visit, and the intelligent student-athlete has the intention to fill it out... begrudingly.
"I'd rather not have to fill out something like this, but I know that I have to and I will," he laughs, echoing the unspoken sentiment of thousands of rising high school seniors across the country who aspire to matriculate at Stanford. "I'm going to start on it next week - sit down with my counselor and attack it."
Wallace has serious interest in Stanford, and I do believe him when he says he intends to fill out the application. The other key data of course is his GPA and test score. He reports that he scored an 1150 on the SAT this spring, and he is content to sit on that score.
"I'm good with that [score]. I should finish with a 3.7 or 3.75 in my GPA, and that's a good enough score," he allows. "I know I could score much higher on the math, but I got stuck on a couple questions and didn't move on. I probably missed very few of the questions I answered, but I didn't get through the test to answer them all. I was really surprised to get a 580 on my verbal, though. I thought I would get a 300 on that! There is no way I am every going back into that room. That was the worst test I have ever taken."
Frankly, any observer would be surprised that Wallace scored just a 570 on the quantitative section of the SAT, given that the advanced mathematics curriculum in Russia would have taught him all he needed, content-wise, at a very early age. But Stanford's Admissions Office typically obsesses about the verbal section, as an important proxy for writing and communication skills that are vital for Stanford's liberal arts education. For a kid who was born and raised in Siberia to score a 580 on the verbal section, you have to be excited for his chances in gaining admission. There are a lot of kids the Cardinal recruit who lived their whole lives in the United States who cannot hit that score.
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