REAL OR IMAGINED, NORTHEAST FRESHMAN CAN PLAY THE GAME
By Todd Vinyard
BOONEVILLE - Cedrick Wallace plays to win.
Whether it is on the court where the freshman is the Northeast Community College Tigers leading scorer (23.1 points per game), or in his dorm room in a highly competitive match of Sega video games against suite mate Richard Duncan.
"I love Sega from John Madden Football to Coach K Basketball," Wallace said "My suite mate and I play all the time."
Duncan, a guard on Northeast's team, says smiling,"There are some serious games played. No doubt about it."
As expected Duncan and Wallace good naturedly disagree on who has the upper hand in these "serious games."
Don't get the idea that Wallace sits in front of a computer all day. During the recent holiday break he spent around five hours a day on his first love - basketball.
"Ever since I can remember I have enjoyed playing basketball," said Wallace, whose Lawrence County High School team in Tennessee went 24-7 last year.
That dedication and devotion to the game has paid off in a quicker than expected transition to junior college play according to Northeast coach Mike Lewis. Besides scoring, Wallace is leading the team in rebounding with 10 per game.
After two players, Joe Stricklen and Thyria Penn, were dismissed from the team for disciplinary reasons at the start of the season Wallace was moved inside. That forces the 6-foot-5 forward to give away some inches to taller opponents.
"You just have to bang with them," he said.
Lewis said Northeast hopes to bring in some size next season so Wallace can be moved to his natural position of small forward. In the meantime, Wallace's effort has impressed the Tiger's coach.
"He is the kind of person I want to coach," Lewis said. "Even with all his talent Cedrick works hard in practice everyday to get better and do things the right way."
Wallace is doing things the right way in the class room as well with a 2.7 GPA at Northeast this past semester. He got a C in a class he took this summer at Mississippi State, so his overall GPA is 2.5.
A tough break for Wallace has him in Northeast's gold and black instead of Mississippi State's maroon and white this season.
After signing with MSU, one of his classes didn't make it through the NCAA clearinghouse, because in some states it is viewed as a vocational class.
"I think about it all the time, but it just motivates me to concentrate here," Wallace said. "Being able to play in a program like Northeast where basketball is so special helps."
While keeping focused on the present at Northeast, Wallace still keeps an eye on the action in Starkville. And one player he watches is No. 32 (Dontae' Jones).
There are similarities. Wallace is from a town near Nashville, while Jones is from Nashville. Both also have the athletic ability to bring fans to their feet with thunderous dunks.
"At the beginning of the year fans were comparing us, but now they see we are different," Wallace said.
Lewis said both are great players in their own right with unique skills.
"One thing about Cedrick is he came to us with more fundamental skills," Lewis said. "It is hard to tell now who is better, because I had two years with Dontae' and only one semester so far with Cedrick."
Since coming to Northeast Wallace said he went through the typical freshman homesickness of missing high school friends. But now after making new friends in Booneville he is enjoying himself and concentrating on winning on and off the basketball court.
"I have been getting some extra Sega practice in," Wallace said. "I like playing, but I really like winning."