There is so much about Steve Wallace, who played basketball at Vintage High School in the 1970s, that Jerry Roach remembers very clearly.
Roach saw it first-hand, up and close, every day:
The way that Wallace, a 6-foot-7 center, took over a game in dominating fashion.
The way that he played defense – blocking shots, contesting shots, rebounding the ball, owning the inside.
The way that he scored – in so many different ways.
“He was at a different level,” said Roach, a teammate of Wallace’s. “He was exceptional, a dominating player. He was so quick and athletic. He was extremely gifted, physically.
“He had a really quick turnaround jumper around the lane. He had a soft touch. He could score inside. A lot of times he scored off of offensive boarding. He was a tremendous defensive player, both off the boards and as a shot blocker.”
Roach, who played point guard for the Crushers, will be the presenter when Wallace is inducted posthumously into the Vintage Athletic Hall of Fame next month. Wallace, a 1977 graduate who went on to play at Santa Clara University and Oregon Tech as well as professionally, and seven others were selected for this year’s Hall of Fame.
Jerry Smith and Mike Jarecki (Class of 1979), Adam Housley (Class of 1989), Ryan Steen (Class of 1993), Anna Cmaylo Acton (Class of 2004), Liza Saunders and Marty James are also in the class.
Saunders recently retired after 41 years as Vintage’s head swimming and diving coach. James, who retired on June 4 after 40 years with the Napa Valley Register, is a special category inductee.
The newest class will be introduced at Vintage’s Hall of Fame Game on Friday, Sept. 6, when the Crushers face Acalanes-Lafayette in a nonleague game at 7 p.m. at Napa Memorial Stadium.
A dinner and enshrinement ceremony is on Saturday, Sept. 7 at the Elks Lodge of Napa. To purchase tickets for the event, or for more information, go to vintageboosters.com.
The mission of the Vintage Athletic Hall of Fame Foundation, which is now in its seventh year, is to recognize and honor the outstanding achievements of individual athletes, coaches and/or special individuals who have contributed to the development, success, tradition and integrity of VHS athletics.
Individuals may be nominated in one of the three following categories: athlete, coach, or special/other.
The selection committee reviews the submitted nominations and makes its recommendations to the board of directors. The board approves the recommendation.
Steve Wallace died on Nov. 20, 1990 in Cordoba, Argentina due to a blood clot. He was 30.
He had spent four years playing on four different pro teams in Argentina.
“I think it is quite the amazing honor, that all these years later, he will be inducted,” Wallace’s sister, Janne Wallace, said.
Vintage High years
Steve Wallace was one of the top basketball players in Vintage High history, as he averaged 15.7 points, 15 rebounds and 7.5 blocks per game, and was twice named to the Citizens Savings Athletic Foundation All-Northern California High School Basketball Team. He played for coach Keith Pahre and received honorable mention All-America and Napa Valley Athlete of the Year honors.
“His timing was exceptional,” Pahre told the Register in a 1990 story. “He could jump real well, so he became a force under the basket at both ends.
“He was an exceptional jumper. His timing was just incredible for a kid his age.
“If a player was about to shoot or get a rebound, he was so quick and adept at swatting the ball away.
“He had the best physical talent of a player that I’ve seen in the area because of his size. He had a perfect basketball body.”
Wallace averaged 18.2 points on 56 percent shooting from the field, 13.5 rebounds and 9.4 blocks per game as a senior, as he led Vintage (23-7 overall) to the Monticello Empire League round-robin regular-season title. The Crushers advanced to the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Class AA Tournament of Champions.
You have free articles remaining.
Wallace received additional honors:
* Napa Valley Register-KVON All-Napa County.
* MEL Most Valuable Player.
* All-Superior California.
* All-Tournament at the Wine Valley and Rose City.
Wallace was selected as the North Bay League MVP and All-Napa County as a junior.
“He was a dominant player,” said Roach, who also graduated in 1977. “He was so aggressive. He was way, way over the rim. He was pretty special. What made Steve special is that he dominated the game.”
Wallace signed a national letter-of-intent in 1977 with Santa Clara. Broncos coach Carroll Williams, who was on hand for the signing ceremony, told the Register: “One of the most outstanding players in the state. I haven’t seen a kid with more potential in the entire state. I know that others in the state feel the same way. Certainly we really like his ability to rebound the ball and shot blocking. The one thing about him, he’s got high goals for himself (and is) willing to work and spend the time improving. He’s going to get better as the weeks go along.”
Wallace was rated as one of the 100 best high school basketball players in the country going into his senior season, according to a story in the Register.
He set career, season and game rebounding records at Vintage.
Wallace blocked eight shots in the first quarter of a Rose City Tournament game against El Molino-Forestville. He had 17 blocks in the game.
He scored 28 points and had 19 rebounds and seven blocked shots in a game that went into overtime against Acalanes-Lafayette.
He had 28 points and 17 rebounds in a championship game win over Hayward at the Rose City Tournament in Santa Rosa.
College, pro years
Wallace’s teammates on the 1977-78 Santa Clara team included Kurt Rambis and Mark McNamara.
Wallace transferred to the University of Michigan after two years with the Broncos.
After one year at Michigan, he signed to play professionally with a team in Adelaide, Australia.
He completed his college basketball career at Oregon Tech, earning team MVP and NAIA honorable mention All-America honors. He averaged 15.3 points on 50.1 percent shooting, 8.4 rebounds and 3.8 blocks his first season at Oregon Tech. He averaged 13.4 points on 51.8 percent shooting, 10.3 rebounds and 3.9 blocks per game the next year.
Wallace had total reconstructive knee surgery in the fall of 1990 in Argentina. His dream was to play in the NBA.
“He did not get picked up by a team, so this was the second choice, to go abroad and play,” Steve Wallace’s mom, Cenora Wallace, told the Register in 1990.
“Four days before he passed away that was still his dream, to come back and play in the NBA. And that was the reason why he had the surgery done, so his knee could be 100 percent.”
Steve Wallace took his game overseas and continued to excel, averaging 24.6 points on 54 percent shooting and 15.4 rebounds per game in 1986, 22.9 points on 62 percent shooting, 17.8 rebounds and 4.3 blocks per game in 1987, and 19.2 points on 68.8 percent shooting, 13.8 rebounds and 4 blocks per game in 1988.
“He was great with managing the ball,” said Janne Wallace.
Janne Wallace recalled all the time and hard work that her brother put into his game during the summer months.
“I remember the drills that he did for his conditioning. He kept himself in shape with drills, practicing his skills,” said Janne Wallace.