Jan. 24, 2012
By Jack Smith
Books have always come before basketball for Josh Wallace. It's been that way as long as the Auburn walk-on can remember.
"Ever since I started having homework growing up, I always wanted to go out and play with my friends, but my mom always made me do my homework first," Wallace said. "You couldn't touch a basketball until you did all of your homework."
That life lesson has paid off for Wallace, a 5-foot-10 junior attending Auburn on a full engineering scholarship. He will graduate with a civil engineering degree next December. It's a feat some said could not be accomplished--but it's not the first time Wallace has proven people wrong.
He was told he was too short to play Div. I basketball, yet he set an Auburn record last year for the most starts by a walk-on, ranked second in the league in steals and fourth in assists.
Coming out of high school, Wallace was also told that he couldn't possibly play college basketball and major in engineering.
"A lot of schools didn't want to look at me because I wanted to major in civil engineering," Wallace said. "They said you can't do engineering and basketball."
Wallace admits it isn't always easy, but he remembers the lessons his mother taught him when its gets challenging.
"Academics always came first," Wallace said. "She preached that heavily."
A typical day in the life of Josh Wallace shatters any myths about whether student-athletes really are both--students and athletes.
Lab days are his most taxing. He rises early to prepare for classes that run from 9 a.m. to Noon, grabs abite to eat and then goes to practice. After practice, it's three hours of lab work followed by however many hours of homework it takes to finish, which is often around 1 a.m.
"I can't get any sleep until my school work is done," Wallace says. "That's just the way I was brought up."
Keeping up with his academics on road trips can be a challenge, but Wallace always takes a couple of books. When the team isn't practicing or watching film, he can often be found reading. He even wrote a paper on a recent plane ride to Baton Rouge.
On the basketball court, Wallace is the consummate team player. After starting nearly every game for Auburn last year, new additions to the lineup, including Texas transfer Varez Ward, have cut into his playing time this season.
Wallace earned just his second start of the season in Saturday's win against South Carolina, but he doesn't worry about how many minutes he gets or who starts.
"Before the season even started, (Coach Tony Barbee) pretty much laid out everybody's role and what they need to do this season," Wallace said. "I'm a team player. It really isn't about me and my points."
Wallace has the same positive attitude and the same scrappy style of play no matter how many minutes he gets every game.
"Whatever I can do to help the team, I just try to embrace the role that Coach gave me," Wallace said. "My mom always told me, if I'm only out there for five seconds to play as hard as I can for that five seconds."
The Pensacola native says his only personal goal is to give it everything he's got when he's on the court.
"My role is to just be a Tasmanian devil on the ball," Wallace said. "I just try to bring unlimited energy defensively off the bench for the team and run the offense, getting other guys shots. That's my role."
Whether his minutes go up or down as the season progresses, Wallace's unselfish attitude won't change.
"Every day I am able to hit the court, I'm blessed," Wallace said. "Just to be able to put on that jersey knowing everybody said I wouldn't make it this far, it gives me joy. That's what keeps me playing hard."