Cason Wallace brings a tough football mindset to the Kentucky basketball court

Kentucky freshman guard Cason Wallace has signed with the Wildcats as one of the top five prospects for the 2022 class. Known as a fierce competitor with a relentless will to win, his dog mentality has separated him from the best players in the perimeter of the country. Other players may be more skilled or shoot and score better, but no one has the grit and tenacity that the 6-foot-4 native of Richardson, TX brings to the table.

Wherever Cason Wallace goes, victory follows.

“I play on both sides of the court. I like to play defense, but I will also have buckets. I’m a team player and I’m just going to have fun. … If they need me to get a bucket, I’ll get a bucket. If they need me to open someone up and do the right readings, I will. Whatever we have to do to win, I will do.

However, he didn’t develop that physical, ruthless, win-at-all-costs mentality on the basketball court. It all started on the gridiron, where Wallace thrived as a multi-position athlete who played on both sides of football.

“I was quarterback, receiver, safety,” Wallace told KSR on Thursday. “I liked running, catching the ball, the people of Moss [laughs]. Defense, I like filling the void, punching people, you know. I’m pretty physical.

And he didn’t just play. Wallace was good – very good, in fact.

Photo credit: Mike Wallace

As a quarterback, he was a tough, strong dual-threat physical presence who could make the throws, but also get off the ground and run when necessary.

“At quarterback, I can read the field,” he told KSR. “I’m good at reading other players, so I know how to direct people with the pass – outside shoulder, back shoulder, all that stuff.”

“Man, he would have been like Cam Newton (if he had kept playing),” added his father, Mike Wallace. “The big quarterback, cold in the pocket, not always wanting to run, will go through his progressions and throw it. Cason was a pretty good man.

His team’s pass protection struggled, forcing Wallace to scramble and take unnecessary hits. That sparked a move to wide receiver, a position he picked up on fairly quickly.

“I’m an elite receiver because I’m pretty fast and I can catch very well. Also, I can jump high,” he told KSR. “Throw a deep road, I catch it and go down with it.”

“Cason could catch, man,” his dad added. “He could to catch.”

Throughout this time, Wallace started at free safety and was known to occasionally deliver hard hat hits.

“I think they would end up changing positions (if he continued football),” Mike Wallace told KSR. “If not receiver, probably free safety. He liked defense now. Cason like to hit, like to hit. He played free safety and quarterback in the same game. Your quarterback was playing free safety [laughs].”

Where could he have taken his talents if he had stayed with football? His father thinks he could easily have been on a scholarship to a top school.

“Blue blood is basketball, what’s top in football? Power Five? He would be a Power Five player in football,” he said.

As for Cason, he felt the sky was the limit. Not only could he have succeeded in college, but he thinks he could have played in the NFL.

“I think I could have turned pro,” he told KSR. “You know, that’s my opinion. I just feel like I would have done the work to make it happen, just like I am with basketball.

Instead, the current Kentucky guard chose hardwood, a path that currently projects him as a lottery pick in the 2023 NBA Draft. It’s not a bad result — and it comes without the bumps and the bruising that comes with wearing football pads. “I feel like you have longevity in basketball, that’s why I chose basketball,” he added.

His coaches and teammates are grateful to him for making the switch.

“I’m huge on Cason,” senior guard CJ Fredrick told KSR. “I told everyone, I like the way he plays for a young man. To come in and be as poised as he is, it’s crazy. I remember when I came to first year, I put on a red shirt because – I’ll be honest, it was a lot for me to come to first grade. He had no problem with that. I was very happy with what he brought to first year year.

“I’m not surprised (he looked good in the Bahamas), I’ve seen him do it for many years,” added second-year forward Daimion Collins. “He’s a versatile point guard who can play defense very well and he can score in basketball.”

For Kentucky head coach John Calipari, he fell in love with Wallace as a player on the recruiting trail. And it happened, ironically enough, in a match against none other than former Wildcat Shaedon Sharpe on the Nike EYBL Tour.

It was a one-on-one where Wallace battled to prove he was the better player.

“The game that I watched where I fell in love with him, where I said, ‘OK, we have to get this kid,’ he went against Shaedon and went straight for him,” Calipari told KSR. . “No fear and really, physically and in every other way, it was like, ‘I’m going to prove that I’m better.’ I thought it would be a good thing, for him to come here and now my man – they’re going nose to nose with this thing. This thing is going to elevate.

The Sharpe situation is what it is. Now, however, Kentucky has a player who turned out to be better than expected, Calipari says.

“Shaedon was the seventh pick in the draft and it’s all behind us, I’m happy for the kid,” Calipari told KSR. “But what happens is I have a player who is even better than I thought. I called his AAU coach and said, ‘Jeff (Webster from ProSkills), he’s better than I thought. ‘I told you! I told you! He’s a warrior, man, that kid.

Calipari says his top players don’t have a rollercoaster ride of emotions day after day, they’re balanced. Never phased.

Wallace fits this category.

“He does everything,” Calipari said. “The best thing is, and the best players I’ve had, they’ve been (even) with their emotions. You never see that kid – he’s like that. Make shots, miss shots. That you let him pass, he defends, he will not change.

It all started on the grill. Now he takes it to the court in a Kentucky basketball uniform.

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