SURREY — Back in the winter of 2012, coach Edward Lefurgy approached one of the more eager members of his Grade 8 boys basketball team at Semiahmoo Secondary.
“He was always working on his skills and always asking for more coaching,” begins Lefurgy of point guard Brian Wallack, who at the time stood at just 4-foot-11. “One day I told him that if he wanted to grow, he needed to eat more hummus. At the end of the year, his mother came up to me and asked ‘Why does Brian always want to buy so much hummus.’”
Five years later, Wallack is still a point guard, one of the very best in the entire province, and one who now stands at 6-foot-5.
Yet this isn’t a story about unlocking your vast potential through a mash of chickpeas, olive oil and garlic.
Instead, it’s about finding the starting point that best illustrates just how badly Brian Wallack wanted to be a player.
Yes, there’s plenty of comic relief, but there has also been a ton of self-belief.
This weekend, as the No. 7-ranked Totems join the likes of the No. 1 Walnut Grove Gators, the host and No. 2-ranked Kelowna Owls, No. 3 Oak Bay Bays and No. 4 Kitsilano Blue Demons at the star-studded Western Canada Invitational, the star power at the leader guard position will be dazzling.
The Gators’ Ty Rowell, the Owls’ Mason Bourcier, Jaden Touchie of the Bays and the Blue Demons’ Luka Lizdek. All are either provincial team selections or standouts with their touring club sides.
Then there is the outlier.
Wallack has never played club basketball and he’s been cut from provincial team tryouts the last four straight years.
But he is intensely driven, he is a multi-sport athlete, and since the summer, when he was last watched by university basketball coaches at provincial camp, he’s grown between four and five inches. And believe it or not, he is still growing.
University coaches have always said ‘He’s got everything we want, if only he was a couple of inches taller.’”
Now, they have no excuse.
Before this past summer, Wallack, a 95 per cent student and a team leader with a tireless work ethic, already had everything but ther height. Now he’s almost five inches taller.
I know, right?
Mom, can you buy me some hummus?
A TOTEM STANDS TALL
If you want to know just how talented and competitive Wallack is on the courts, consider that this past season he started at off-side hitter for the Totems senior varsity volleyball team and helped lead Semiahmoo to the B.C. Triple-A championship title.
Before his growth spurt, he functioned as volleyball’s version of the point guard, starring as a setter. The sport gives him transfer to basketball, he says. It also helps him say thanks to a mom who has always supported his athletic endeavours.
“My mom was a very competitive beach player and she has put so much time in for me,” begins Wallack, “that I wanted to keep the sport for her. But I also love being multi-sport because I find having different types of skills helps give me a different perspective (in basketball).”
This is inquisitivness at its finest. And Lefurgy keeps breaking out stories from back in the day.
“I gave him a basketball book a number of years ago, one I gave to our whole team,” begins Lefurgy of Wallack, who has managed to retain all of his small-man skills and morph into a big point guard who can literally play and defend any spot on the court. “The other guys might use it for a while and then it just goes away. But Brian, to this day, has just kept refreshing it.”
Over the summer, Wallack went to a point guard college offered in Seattle at the University of Washington.
“The next day, he’s in our open gym with all of these notes written about things they discussed,” laughs Lefurgy. “This is Brian, the kind of person I can have an adult conversation with about our team, about our school’s dynamic. He has high character, he is a sounding board, and at 17, an extension of the coach.”
And Lefurgy, the former UFV Cascades player, not only sees a confidence emerging in Wallack that mirrors his current growth spurt, but he has a good idea why its happening.
“At the start he has very little success so he had to keep working at things so he was never stunted by praise,” says Lefurgy, who himself is a firm believer in everything attained being earned.
“To be a leader, a kid needs to understand what responsibility actually is,” Lefurgy begins. “It’s not something you can just download to your phone. It’s not some kind of an app. Brian has organized our rides, collected forms for travel, managed our money, and on Saturday in Kelowna, he is going to stand up at the breakfast banquet and address the room about what Semiahmoo is all about. I am nudging him to be our valedictorian.”
NO MAGIC ELIXIR
Which brings us back to the real story behind the hummus.
“Yeah it was kind of a joke,” admits Lefurgy. “I can remember visiting Israel and it was at a time when I was trying, as an athlete, to be more healthy. But I always found it hard to eat vegetables so the hummus helped.”
So that’s all it was.
Of course, within the Semiahmoo basketball community, the story has taken on a life of its own, so much so that even the mild-mannered Wallack admits it wears on him.
“It really bugs me when (Lefurgy) tells that story because in a way it portrays me as a fool,” begins Wallack in an understanding tone. “But really what it says is that I will do anything to get better, and if he said eat hummus, then I was going to do it.”
Those days have long since passed.
But almost miraculously, as if some latent remains of the dip invigorated his growth plates, he began to grow and grow and grow.
“And honestly I don’t think I’m done growing yet,” he laughs.
All Brian Wallack wanted to do was get better, and in the end that’s just what he did.
And he knows now that real magic potion was hard work and self-belief.
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