EKentucky’s newest basketball player thinks he understands the attention he’ll face with the Wildcats. Few do until they experience it and sometimes it’s more than some players can handle.
First-year keeper Cason Wallace got his first real taste of Big Blue madness during last week’s Kroger Tour when he came to London with coach John Calipari. He got to see fans lined up for over two hours to get coach John Calipari’s autograph and just see and take photos with him, teammates Chris Livingston and Brennan Canada, and assistant coaches Orlando Antigua and KT Turner .
“It’s very cool to see how many people actually support Kentucky basketball and how much they love it,” Wallace said. “That surprises me a bit. Even though we didn’t get on the pitch and play in front of everyone, just seeing how much they love us is crazy.
Krysten Peek, a basketball analyst/writer for Rivals and Yahoo, thinks Wallace is one of the toughest-minded prep players she’s seen, a compliment Wallace embraces.
“I know it will be a challenge to play here, but if I was weak-minded I wouldn’t be here. I have to keep it strong mentally and know that I can do anything and let no pressure at the same timeuh me,” he said.
Wallace has an endearing personality. He may not be as outgoing as ex-British guards Tyrese Maxey and Immanuel Quickley, but he interacted well with fans of all ages in London. He also had fun working with youngsters at a one-day basketball camp in Frankfurt.
“I like to take advantage of the presence of people. I see the smile I put on their face, so just knowing they’re putting a smile back on me hopefully makes them feel good,” Wallace said in London. “I got real laughs and smiles from the fans and I hope I can keep them smiling.
“I can’t wait to play in front of the fans. A lot of Kentucky fans started showing their love for me in high school and some even came to see me play. So I want to make them happy with the way I play for them.
He understands that nothing makes the British fans – or Calipari – happier than seeing the Cats win, especially in the playoffs.
“We are going to have a good season. Players constantly train alone and with the team. Once we all get together and put it all together, I think we can go pretty far this year,” Wallace said. “The goal is to take care of business and win a championship. I like to have fun, but once it’s time to lock down and get serious, I can do it with no problem.
His biggest adjustment on the pitch has been communicating clearly with his opponents, while off the pitch it’s about nutrition and hydration.
“You do so many workouts it’s easy to get cramps,” Wallace said. “I had to learn to eat better and make sure I got enough sleep. I’ve done a lot of work outside of basketball doing strength and conditioning. I’ve lifted more weight here than ever before, but if that’s what it takes to win a championship.
Calipari compared him to former British players Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Eric Bledsoe. Wallace compares himself to current Miami Heat star Jimmy Butler because of his commitment to defense.
“Shai, I like his game and I try to model him a bit in terms of floats and shots. Eric, he’s a great keeper. I like the way he plays. I feel like that I could be a bit of him too,” Wallace said.
Either way, I think UK fans are going to really like it.