Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2009 | 2:15 a.m.
Ryan Greene and Rob Miech dive into the issue of Mike Sanford's firing from UNLV, plus what went down at his Monday press conference. Also, a look at a big week ahead for the Rebels hoops squad, as it hosts UNR and Southern Illinois.
- UNLV’s Kendall Wallace brimming with confidence (11-5-2009)
UNLV junior shooter Kendall Wallace should either write a self-help book, a surefire bestseller, or get an advanced degree and create his own daytime talk show.
“I don’t know about that,” he said with a laugh after practice Monday afternoon. “You just have to block out the negative things and think positive, have confidence, step up and knock down shots.”
Wallace would be a fan of the 1970 movie “Kelly’s Heroes,” which made its debut 18 years before he was born and contained the famous line, "Enough with the negative waves, Moriarty."
“That’s really what it’s about,” Wallace said. “I try to go through it that way and try not to let things bother me.”
It’s a trait that has served the 6-foot-4 guard well as he struggled to find his way as a freshman and enjoyed some success when he rediscovered his high school shooting form last season.
During the past month in practice he torched the nets nearly on a daily basis, and that carried over to the Rebels’ season opener Saturday night against Pittsburg State.
Wallace pelted the Gorillas for a career-high 16 points, on 4-for-5 shooting from 3-point range, in UNLV’s 91-52 drubbing.
Loren Wallace, Kendall’s grandfather who had a celebrated high school coaching career in Illinois, attended Monday’s practice at the Thomas & Mack Center and summed up the secret to Kendall’s success.
“He’s a positive person, always has been,” Loren said. “Junior high, high school, AAU ball, college … I’ve never heard him say one negative thing about a coach or someone he played with. Never, ever.
What’s become usual, if not expected, is Kendall Wallace sinking 3-pointers from all over the court.
Monday, he did miss from the left side. A scrimmage teammate wearing white yanked down the rebound. The ball was crisply rotated around the perimeter and seemed destined to land back in his hands.
Fourteen seconds after the misfire, Wallace, just right of the top of the key, took a feed from Anthony Marshall and drilled it from 21 feet.
“You just can’t let a miss bother you too much,” Wallace said. “You just have to block out those negative thoughts. If I miss a shot, I’m thinking the next one is going in.”
There was plenty of negativity aimed at Wallace when he arrived at UNLV after helping Mesa (Ariz.) Mountain View High win three consecutive 5A state championships, the first Arizona team to accomplish that feat since 1961.
UNLV coaches adjusted his shooting style, coaxing him to release his long jumpers more above his head than in front. He made only 21 percent from beyond the arc as a freshman.
Critics voiced and wrote their displeasure, but Wallace tried not to pay heed to anything outside the team circle.
“When it comes to that kind of stuff, I try not to let it bother me,” he said. “I try to block that stuff out and not worry about what others are saying.”
Easier said than done?
“Definitely,” Wallace said. “I think, you know, if you start reading some stuff, it’ll be positive and negative. You can’t take the negative very personal. I just try to avoid all that.”
During preseason practice a year ago he vowed to return to his Mountain View style. It clicked.
In the third game of the season, Wallace scored 14 points against Northern Arizona. He hit double figures in three other games and shot 41 percent from 3-point territory on the season.
Wallace’s father, Jeffery, coached high school ball in Illinois for 17 years. His specialty? Shooting.
“It’s meant a lot,” Loren Wallace said of his grandson returning to his prep shooting style. “His father always had him working on his shot for two to three hours a day. He’s also stronger and more confident. You can just tell he’s a lot more relaxed and a lot more knowledgeable.”
If Loren and Jeffery aren’t around, Kendall will surely get some advice from great uncle Riley Wallace, who coached Hawaii for 20 years and lives in Las Vegas.
UNLV coach Lon Kruger agreed that Wallace’s accuracy from long distance over the past month has been remarkable, but Kruger applauded other areas of Wallace’s game.
“He’s not only making shots, which is his one objective and role, but he’s doing a good job defensively and he’s rebounding the ball,” Kruger said.
And Wallace is fighting back, giving a licking after taking one.
Monday, junior guard Tre'Von Willis smacked an elbow into Wallace when Wallace darted into the lane. A minute or two later, Wallace hounded Willis when he tried cutting across the baseline.
Later, when Wallace secured a ball out of a scrum on defense, Willis walked up to him, smiled widely and patted Wallace on his head.
“Tre is a more physical player, and that’s a good thing,” Wallace said. “It brings another aspect to my game. If he’s making me work hard in practice and being physical with me, I feel it’s going to help me in the games.”
Did anyone think Kendall Wallace, for the first time ever, was going to knock someone, especially a teammate? Not even close.
“That comes from my parents and grandparents, my family and the way I was raised,” he said. “It instilled some good morals in me. There are things I should be doing and things I shouldn’t be doing.”
Ideas for that book and TV show, he said without pause, belong in that latter category.