SURREY — Brian Wallack was somewhere around three years of age when a young player from Salmon Arm Secondary named Casey Archibald first donned the blue-and-gold of the UBC Thunderbirds.
Fifteen years later, the UBC-bound senior point guard from Surrey’s Semiahmoo Secondary admitted he needed to do a little research to truly appreciate the player he was being likened to at the same age as a graduating high school senior by ‘Birds head coach Kevin Hanson.
“I didn’t know too much about him until he came to our Semiahmoo Totems camp last summer,” Wallack said Monday of Archibald. “That’s when I looked him up.”
And what did Wallack learn?
“That he was a pretty good player,” the Grade 12 said, purposely understating his tone in tribute to Archibald, the second all-time scorer in UBC history.
“Being compared to someone like that gives me a great amount of confidence,” says Wallack. “(Archibald) was an incredible player, so if I can do anything like he did, it would be awesome.”
Time and performance will be the final arbiters of Wallack’s impact, but it’s clear that Hanson — who also recruited Archibald — is comfortable making a comparison between the two as high school seniors because he understands the combination of maturity and perseverance that Wallack brings to the table.
“Brian’s upside is huge,” Hanson says of Wallack, a 6-foot-5 point guard with athleticism, smarts and heart.
“Casey came in as a young high school player and graduated after a remarkable career,” continues Hanson of Archibald, who trails only J.D. Jackson in program scoring and was a five-time Canada West all-star. “Brian has that same capability. I don’t want to put pressure on him to have to emulate that, but I see the same kind of upside.”
What attracted Hanson to Wallack?
Aside from his substantial skills as a big lead guard, it was a cache of intangibles.
As legend has it, Wallack stood 4-foot-11 in Grade 8. He has been cut from the provincial team the past four years. Yet he has such an unflappable and sunny nature, that he ticks off every box relating to team chemistry.
“I love the size, the fact that he can handle it, shoot it, match on the perimetre against ones, twos and threes,” begins Hanson, “but he is also a 90 per cent student, his parents are both UBC grads, and he is a leader on the floor.
“Any time someone made a mistake, he would be over to high-five that player. The leadership ability that he has is something that is so hard to coach. He just brings it with him.”
UBC’s guard rotation is not exactly thin despite the graduation of Jordan Jensen-Whyte and swingman Will Ondrik.
The returning vets are led by the likes of Taylor Browne and Phil Jalalpoor, young talent is rising as well, and transfer Jauquin Bennett-Boire is a superstar in waiting.
It’s a challenging and competitive atmosphere, one that has always suited Wallack’s DNA to a T, and one that Hanson likes as a starting point for his new recruit.
Following his team’s shocking ouster at the hands of the Manitoba Bisons in the conference playoffs, Hanson attended the U Sports Final 8 national tournament and strengthened his belief of what the daily environment of practice needs to more closely resemble at War Gym.
“We need to be more competitive in practice,” he said. “Guys need to be hungry and you have to compete and play to earn your minutes.”
And perhaps that’s why the head coach doesn’t hesitate to speak his mind as to Wallack’s potential. He knows the player in question will handle it the right way.
“Looking at what we need more of, it’s size, athleticism and mental toughness,” says Hanson. “For some reason, when you look at kids, they can remind you of someone else. For Brian, it’s right down to the fact that their physical appearance is similar. What I saw in Casey as a high school player is what I see a lot of in Brian Wallack.”
Again, Wallack’s response isn’t one of shouldering pressure.
To him, the exact opposite occurs.
“I’ve been cut from so many teams in the past couple of years and I have never found that it puts me down,” says Wallack. “It makes me want to work harder, and if someone compares me to someone good, then I am going to work that much harder to prove it to them.”
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