Wallace swaps court for field in transition to Aussie Rules

Eric Wallace of the United States talks to the media during the 2012 AFL draft combine at Etihad Stadium on October 2, 2012 in Melbourne, Australia.
Eric Wallace of the United States talks to the media during the 2012 AFL draft combine at Etihad Stadium on October 2, 2012 in Melbourne, Australia. Lucas Dawson / Getty Images

IF FORMER Canadian rugby union player Mike Pyke can play in a premiership side with the Sydney Swans, why can't former US college basketballer Eric Wallace do the same at North Melbourne?

The Kangaroos announced yesterday that Wallace had joined the club as an international rookie after a 10-day trial.

That followed the 24-year-old's impressive results at the AFL Draft Combine in October, where he recorded an 80cm vertical leap (in the top 3%), and a 2.90 second 20m sprint.

Coach Brad Scott said the biggest challenge for the native of North Carolina would be improving his endurance to AFL standards.

Scott also said its was Wallace's worth ethic and skill improvement he showed during the trial that had convinced the club to take a punt on signing him.

"When Eric came out to the AFL Combine he really impressed with his athleticism … the athletic feats that he shows on the basketball court we really think a lot of those traits can transfer onto the footy field," Scott said.

"It's really exciting for us to see just how far we can take him. It's going to be a long road for him there's no doubt, but we certainly think that based on what he's shown so far it's worth trying."

Standing 196cm and weighing in at 102kg (almost identical to rugby league code-hooper Israel Folau), Wallace would be a candidate for the ruck or a key position.

He will play with North Ballarat in 2013, and said his desire to play AFL had been sparked by watching the Swans win this year's premiership.

"I'm very confident in myself. Like coach says, I've got a long way to go," Wallace said.

"It's the first step. I'm just grateful for the opportunity to have the chance to work towards the goal of being senior listed and help(ing) the team out.

"It really stuck with me when I went home and [I] wanted to be a part of it. I'd fallen in love with AFL by then."

Wallace isn't the first basketballer to try to make the transition to AFL.

Port Adelaide premiership ruckman Dean Brogan won an NBL title with Adelaide 36ers in 1998 before making a successful switch to Australian Rules football.

Earlier this year, 29-year-old dual Australian Olympic basketballer Mark Worthington had a trial with the West Coast Eagles, and while he showed plenty of the skills and attributes required, the Eagles passed because of his age.

Time is one thing Wallace has on his side.

Topics:  afl aussie rules basketball north melbourne kangaroos usa

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