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There’s a commercial that airs on the Thomas & Mack Center’s big screen that features a few of the players sitting in the locker room discussing Kendall Wallace, the most-senior senior on this year’s team.
“I heard he was in the same recruiting class as Coach Rice,” teammate Bryce Jones jokes.
Fellow senior Chace Stanback, who is one year younger than Wallace, adds: “I think I’ve seen him drink prune juice before the games.”
The spot is hammy and a little funny, but more importantly, it cuts to the core of Wallace’s role on this year’s team. A knee injury that forced him to miss the entire 2010-11 season has limited him this year to 11.4 minutes per game, a career low.
He still comes in and can knock down a 3-pointer in big spots, but mostly his leadership role has been limited to practice and off the court. And it’s in those venues the veteran lives up to his name as the man who’s seen it all.
A Mountain West tournament title and an NCAA Tournament victory are just ideas to every other Rebel. But Wallace has lived it, and he has the memories, and the ring, to prove it.
“If we play well, we feel like we should definitely win the Mountain West tournament, and win games in the NCAA Tournament,” Wallace said. “That’s a special feeling when you win the championship, and I really would like to celebrate that with my teammates."
This season has certainly not gone as Wallace would have liked. It’s difficult to spend your senior year hampered by injury and at the back end of the rotation.
Certain players in that position could become a distraction. Rice said he never had to worry about that with Wallace.
"He’s been a little bit frustrated this year because of his knee, but yet he’s been so positive and great for our young guys," Rice said.
Wallace’s career has been one of sacrifice and doing whatever’s asked of him, be it in practice or a game, to help make the team better. It’s not the most glamorous gig, but it takes wisdom to accept that role.
There’s only one player who knows what it takes to win the conference tournament or an NCAA Tournament game at UNLV. That makes Wallace invaluable as he tries to end his career by duplicating those efforts.