The UNF men’s basketball program adds a new player to its roster, but he will not be able to play until the 2011-2012 season.
Travis Wallace, the 6-foot-6-inch forward, comes from Florida A&M University where he played in one season for 31 games last year for the Rattlers, averaging 4.6 points and 2.7 rebounds, per game. Wallace led FAMU with a 49.6 field goal percentage and was named first-team All-Region as a senior at Campbell High School in Smyrna, Ga.
Wallace comes to UNF through a circumstance of coincidence. The basketball recruiting program was looking to recruit a talented 7-foot-player, but could not get him to commit. In the mean time, Wallace was in the act of transferring from FAMU to a junior college, while UNF kept the extra scholarship. While head coach Matthew Driscoll was in Texas, his friend asked him what UNF basketball needed to add to the program. Driscoll’s answer was an interior player who can score points for the team. Four days later, Wallace is on the UNF campus.
“People can believe in what ever they want to believe in, and my faith is very, very secure in what I believe in and I just think things happen because of your belief,” Driscoll said. “What happened with Travis was, he wanted to leave FAMU and because of this relationship he came on and fell in love with what was going on.”
Wallace not only adds depth to the team by his experience and talent but also by experiencing the season from the sidelines. He has to sit out a season due to NCAA Division I transfer qualifications, but Driscoll knows it will help in the future.
“We have to get more arch on his shot, but, again, he is not a finished product, but he is a guy that can really score the ball with a physical presence,” Driscoll said. “He’s got a good balance to him as well, and I think he is really going to help Andy [Diaz], Matt [Sauey] and Kyle [Groothuis] and David [Jeune] from the sense that he is going to be able to bang against those guys as another body every day.”
Another reason Wallace transferred is because Driscoll has coached another player through the same situation Wallace is going through, he said. Ekpe Udoh, a Baylor University graduate, was selected sixth overall in the 2010 NBA Draft by the Golden State Warriors. Driscoll coached Udoh at Baylor, where he went through the process Wallace is heading into. Knowing Driscoll helped Udoh overcome his situation, Wallace wants that same coaching, he said.
“The smallest of the worlds, is the guy that was the sixth pick in the NBA Draft,was a guy that gave me a lot of publicity with what we did during his red shirt year,” Driscoll said. “And his agent lives in the same area as Travis, and Ekpe was working out at Travis’ high school, and Travis was watching Ekpe work out. Now this was back in May and June and we hadn’t ever had a conversation.”
Udoh did not know who Wallace was at the time, but remembers a bigger kid with FAMU gear on working out at the school gym, Driscoll said. “It’s just amazing how all those those ducks line up and it’s just a small world kind of,” Driscoll said. Wallace’s father is an official and his mother is a great human being, and saw the campus and loved the situation, he said.
Driscoll has seen the team’s first practice with the new addition of Wallace and can see the wheels turning, he said. It is very important to be in the best shape a player can be in during this time as a red shirt, Driscoll said. Also, a player needs to be competitive during the red shirt period to get prepared for the following season. Udoh found himself in the same situation, Driscoll said, and now he is an NBA player.
“He’s also going to get the feel of blending in with the team,” Driscoll said. “Plus he will be able to give some guys some ideas and thoughts from a non-threatening perspective.”
Wallace also agrees with Driscoll’s point of view, he said.
“The main reason I transferred [is] because of the opportunity to play for Coach Driscoll,” Wallace said. “I just really want to play for a real good guy and a real good coach, and I see he is trying to turn this program around, and I want to be a part of it.”
Once Wallace arrived at UNF and had practiced with the team, he noticed the transition Driscoll is talking about, he said. The Ospreys tip off the season Nov. 11 in the UNF Arena in an exhibition match against Edward Waters, then travel to Florida State University Nov. 12.