Australian guard Kristy Wallace has started all four games for Atlanta Dream during her rookie Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) season and has made an immediate impact to rank in the top three for Atlanta in minutes played, assists and steals per game at this early stage of the 2022 WNBA season. At 26 years of age Wallace is older than your typical WNBA rookie and has had to overcome considerable adversity to get an opportunity playing for a team in the WNBA.
Wallace had a decorated junior career which included being captain of the bronze medal winning Australian Gems at the 2015 Under 19 FIBA World Championships held in Chekhov, Russia. Wallace led the Gems for assists and ranked second in scoring and minutes played.
From 2014/15 to 2017/18 Wallace played four seasons of college basketball for the Baylor Lady Bears and at the end of her career she ranked in the top five on Baylor’s all-time list for assists and three-point field goals made. In each of Wallace’s first three seasons at Baylor the Lady Bears made the elite eight of the NCAA Women’s Tournament. In Baylor’s final game of the 2017/18 regular season on 26 February 2018 Wallace tore the ACL in her right knee, ending her senior season and college career. In Wallace’s senior year she was selected in the 2017/18 All-Big 12 First team and the All-Defensive team.
Wallace had a right knee reconstruction which ruled her out for the 2018 WNBA season. Despite this Atlanta Dream selected Wallace with pick 16 at the 2018 WNBA Draft which highlights how impressive Wallace’s performances at junior level for Australia and at college with Baylor had been.
After rehabilitating her right knee Wallace returned to the court in her home country, Australia on 21 December 2018 during the 2018/19 Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) season with the University of Canberra Capitals. In her second game with the Capitals two days later Wallace injured her right ACL and required a second knee reconstruction within 12 months.
Wallace missed all of the 2019/20 WNBL season, moved to Melbourne and worked closely with the Victorian Institute of Sport during her rehabilitation. On 16 May 2021 Wallace made her basketball return with the Melbourne Tigers in NBL1 South. In a season cut short due to COVID-19 restrictions Wallace played five games off the bench for the Melbourne Tigers and averaged 14.2 points per game shooting the ball at 53.5% from the field.
Despite playing very little basketball in the previous three years due to her knee injuries 180 centimetre tall Wallace made her debut for Australia’s senior women’s national basketball team, the Opals at the 2021 FIBA Asia Cup held in Amman, Jordan in September, playing six games off the bench for the bronze medal winning Opals team. Wallace also represented the Opals at the 2022 World Cup Qualifying Tournament held in Serbia during February 2022.
In her first full WNBL season with the Southside Flyers in 2021/22 Wallace scored at least 10 points in a game five times and won the WNBL’s Sixth Woman of the Year Award.
On the 23 February 2022 edition of radio program SEN Breakfast Wallace was asked “Four knee surgeries in three years, you have spoken about having to step away from the sport to find out what you were without sport, how challenging did it get and did you really consider giving it all away?” Wallace responded “I did. Yeah, there were some tough times in that three-year period. I played 12 minutes of basketball in those three years so I didn’t think I would be able to get back. After my last surgery I just told my strength coach (Ben King) I just want to be healthy, I want to be able to run again and that’s all I want. It wasn’t even about basketball anymore it was just I need to find out who I am, I need to be healthy, let’s get that done. It was just a step by step progress to make it to this point today, one year ago I still hadn’t even hit the court yet. I am pretty lucky to just be where I am at the moment.”
After being unable to attend a training camp previously due to knee injuries Wallace was grateful to get another opportunity with Atlanta Dream in 2022 and told wnbl.basketball “I actually thought my chances of going to the WNBA were over so to have them stick by me, keep me in the mix after all these years is a big testament to them. I’m so rapt to have this chance, finally. It is a dream come true and I’m just excited to give it a go. There are no expectations so I’m just going to go for it.”1
Kristy Wallace’s incredible basketball journey from playing at junior level and college through to overcoming two knee reconstructions and playing in the WNBL, with the Australian Opals and making her WNBA debut with the Atlanta Dream is covered in detail below.
Early life and junior career
Kristy Wallace was born on 3 January 1996 and grew up in Loganholme, a suburb in the city of Logan located approximately 31 kilometres south-east of Queensland’s capital city Brisbane. During the My Baylor Story – Kristy Wallace video published on 27 March 2015 Wallace spoke about how she started playing basketball, commenting “I started basketball when I was five years old, both my older sisters and my older brother played and I wanted to be like them and I followed in their footsteps. I remember we would always play in our backyard, two on two, one on one and I’d always get beat because I was the smallest, I still am.” Kristy’s junior basketball club was the Southern District Spartans.
In November 2016 Kristy told espn.com.au about the influence her dad John had on her, commenting “At a young age, he shaped me to work hard. It didn’t necessarily have to be basketball, it could be anything at all. He encouraged me to work my butt off and step my game up in anything I did.”2
Kristy’s older sister Nikki played one season of Australian Rules Football in the highest league possible, the Australian Football League Women’s (AFLW) league, playing all eight games for Brisbane in 2017 including the first ever AFLW Grand Final. Nikki has also played several seasons at state league level, firstly in the Queensland Australian Football League Women’s (QAFLW) and more recently in the Victorian Football League Women’s (VFLW). Nikki is currently playing for the Southern Saints in the 2022 VFLW season.
At the 2013 Under 18 Australian Junior Championships Kristy was a member of the South Queensland team that won the bronze medal. Playing for John Paul College at the 2013 Australian School Championships Wallace excelled and was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player (MVP).
In a U18 AJC – Player Spotlight – Kristy Wallace (QLD South) video published by Basketball Australia on 21 April 2013 Wallace commented “Some of my basketball heroes are Erin Phillips and Kristi Harrower, I really look up to them, they are amazing players, their mentality and the way they play the game is awesome. My dream would be go play WNBA, WNBL, I would love the opportunity to do that, maybe go over to college, that’s what I aspire to.” On playing for the Opals in the future Wallace commented “Amazing, that would be such a great opportunity to be an Opal. Definitely that is one of my dreams to do that.”
At the 2013 FIBA Women’s Under 19 Pacific Games Wallace was a member of the Australian team that won the gold medal, defeating New Zealand 74-54 in the final. Wallace scored 17 points in the final and was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player (MVP). Basketball Australia and Basketball Queensland both named Wallace the 2013 Junior Player of the Year. Wallace also received an award at local level, being named the City of Logan 2013 Young Sportswomen of the Year.
Wallace spent time at the Basketball Australia Centre of Excellence (BA CoE) in Canberra on a basketball scholarship during 2014. As well as training throughout the week Wallace also played 11 games for the BA CoE team in the South East Australian Basketball League (SEABL) and represented Australia at under-age tournaments. Wallace was only able to play part of the 2014 SEABL season for the BA CoE as during the season she moved to the USA to attend Baylor University.
At the 2014 FIBA Oceania under 18 Championships held in Fiji from 27 November to 6 December 2014 Wallace represented Australia. Wallace was a starter for Australia throughout the tournament and in the final against New Zealand was joined by Tahlia Tupaea, Anneli Maley, Alanna Smith and Lauren Scherf in the starting line-up. A dominant 23-8 second quarter by Australia in the final set up a 98-65 victory against New Zealand to win the gold medal. Wallace is one of three Australian starters in the final that have played in the WNBA during the 2022 season with Smith playing for Indiana Fever and Maley playing for Chicago Sky as a hardship exception player. At the 2014 FIBA Oceania under 18 Championships Wallace played all six games for Australia and averaged 11.8 points, 2.8 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 1.8 steals and 21.5 minutes per game. Wallace led Australia for assists, ranked second for steals, fifth for scoring and shot the ball at 47.5% from the field.
Wallace captained the Australian Gems at the 2015 Under-19 FIBA World Championships held in Chekhov, Russia from 18 to 26 July, Gems teammates included Ezi Magbegor, Anneli Maley, Lauren Scherf and Tahlia Tupaea. The Australian Gems coached by Paul Goriss won their first five games of the tournament to progress to a semi-final against Russia. Wallace scored 15 points and took eight rebounds in the 57-76 semi final loss to Russia.
The Gems started the bronze medal game brilliantly to lead Spain 27-9 with two minutes remaining in the first quarter. As the game progressed Spain reduced the margin however Australia prevailed and had a 69-62 victory to win the bronze medal with Wallace scoring nine points, taking nine rebounds, having three assists and two steals. At the 2015 Under-19 FIBA World Championships Wallace played all seven games for the Gems and averaged 10.0 points, 4.9 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 1.1 steals and 24.1 minutes court-time per game. Wallace was very consistent throughout the 2015 Under-19 FIBA World Championships, scoring at least seven points in every game. At the tournament Wallace led the Gems for assists, ranked second in scoring and minutes played, equal fourth for steals and sixth for rebounds. Wallace graduated from the Basketball Australia Centre of Excellence (BA CoE) in 2015.
College career with Baylor Lady Bears from 2014/15 to 2017/18
During Easter 2014 Wallace travelled from Queensland to the United States of America and visited five US College’s, Baylor, SMU, Louisville, Purdue, and Washington. After doing her research and making the visit’s Wallace decided to attend Baylor University, located in Waco, Texas. On the decision-making process Wallace told The Pick and Roll in September 2016 “A lot of people helped me out in the process, because it’s just so overwhelming at times. My dad was very helpful. [Basketball QLD High Performance Director] Leonard King, he was a fantastic source I could go to, just to talk to, because I had no idea what I wanted to do. But I’m excited I came to college and I think it’s a great pathway for young players.”3
Baylor play their home games at the Ferrell Center and are one of the most successful University’s in women’s college basketball, being two-time National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) champions in the decade before Wallace joined, winning the NCAA women’s title in 2004/05 and 2011/12. Under head coach Kim Mulkey the Lady Bears won four consecutive Big 12 conference regular season championships from 2010/11 to 2013/14 and were looking to extend this sequence to five titles in Wallace’s freshman 2014/15 season. Mulkey commenced as Baylor’s coach in the 2000/01 season.
In September 2016 Wallace told The Pick and Roll about the appeal of attending Baylor “I was really impressed with the Christian atmosphere and playing for Coach Mulkey is just an awesome opportunity. Just being part of such a successful program is something I wanted to be a part of. I’ve loved it so far. I didn’t really know what to expect coming over here, I was just throwing myself in and seeing what would happen, but I’m definitely glad that I’ve done it. I’ve learnt so much about the game and so much about myself.”4
In a video Baylor WBB: One on One with Kristy Wallace published by Baylor Athletics on 5 November 2014 Wallace’s Lady Bears teammate Chardonae Fuqua’ asked “If someone was to do a scouting report on you what would they say about your game?” Wallace replied “They would probably say that I’m a perimeter player, I play point guard and a bit of two so I am a combo guard. I can shoot the ball a little bit but also take my man off the dribble I would say.” On being a student athlete at Baylor University Wallace commented “People treat you really, really well, you get treated like a superstar down here. It has been an experience and it is really cool, I like it.”
Later in the video Fuqua asked Wallace “If you had a dream-team of five WNBA players who would they be, you can use some people from Australia if you want but you already know we have a couple from Baylor.” Wallace responded “I would probably say Odyssey Sims, I’d say Penny Taylor, she’s from Australia, Erin Phillips, she’s from Australia, Brittney Griner, who else, Lauren Jackson.” Sims and Griner were both members of the Baylor Lady Bears team that won the 2012 NCAA Championship whilst Phillips, Taylor and Jackson were all members of the Australian Opals team that won the gold medal at the 2006 World Championships in Rio and have each played in two WNBA Championships. Three members of Wallace’s WNBA dream-team – Taylor, Phillips and Griner were teammates on the 2014 Phoenix Mercury WNBA Championship winning team whose head coach was current Australian Opals head coach Sandy Brondello.
Links to articles published on Milestones and Misses comprehensively covering the careers of Taylor and Phillips are below:
On college debut for Baylor in the 2014/15 season Wallace scored 11 points, took three rebounds, had three assists and three steals vs Oral Roberts. Against Idaho Wallace was damaging from long range, making six of nine three’s, scored a team-high 24 points and had five rebounds and five assists to set new career-highs in all three categories. In an 81-66 victory against Iowa in the sweet sixteen of the NCAA Women’s tournament Wallace shot the ball proficiently to make seven of eight field goals at an accuracy of 87.5%, make both three-pointers and scored 17 points.
In 2014/15 Baylor won the Big 12 conference regular season championship for the fifth consecutive year, and also won the Big 12 Women’s basketball Tournament. The Baylor Lady Bears won three games in the NCAA Women’s Tournament before being defeated in the elite eight by Notre Dame 68-77. Baylor’s overall record in 2014/15 was 33 wins and four losses. During her freshman season with Baylor in 2014/15 Wallace played 33 games including six as a starter, averaged 7.8 points, 2.5 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game and was the only unanimous selection to the Big 12 All-Freshman team.
Against Texas in Baylor’s final game of the 2015/16 regular season on 29 February 2016 Wallace scored a team-high 23 points, took seven rebounds, made four assists and two blocks in a 73-48 victory to be named the Big 12 Player of the Week. The Lady Bears won both the 2015/16 Big 12 conference regular season championship and in the Big 12 Women’s basketball Tournament, defeating Texas 79-63 in the championship game to win the title which qualified them for the NCAA Women’s Tournament.
In their first three rounds of the NCAA Women’s Tournament Baylor won each game by at least 20 points to advance to the elite eight. In the elite eight Baylor were defeated by Oregon State 57-60. Baylor finished the 2015/16 season with a record of 36 wins and two losses. During 2015/16 Wallace started 20 of her 37 games for Baylor. Wallace was a joint winner of the Baylor coaches award along with Khadijiah Cave.
In November 2016 Baylor head coach Kim Mulkey commented on Wallace to espn.com.au “No one outworks Kristy. She works, works, works, and when we’re not practicing, she’s up at the gym. She’s constantly active and moving. She never tires. She makes you work hard because she’s working so hard.”5
Wallace started all 37 games for Baylor in 2016/17. Baylor had 28 wins and two losses to win the Big 12 conference regular season championship for the seventh consecutive season. In a 95-63 victory against Texas Tech in the quarter finals of the Big 12 Tournament Wallace registered a double-double comprised of 12 points and 10 rebounds and also had seven assists and two steals. Wallace had a career-high 15 assists in an 88-71 semi final victory against Kansas State to progress to the Big 12 Championship game. Wallace scored a season-high 17 points, took nine rebounds and had five assists in a 66-77 loss to West Virginia in the Big 12 Championship final. Across her three Big 12 Tournament games Wallace averaged 11.3 points, 8.0 rebounds, 9.0 assists, and 1.3 steals, her superb performances were recognised with selection in the 2017 Big 12 Championship All-tournament team.
Baylor won each of their first three rounds of the 2017 NCAA Tournament by at least 34 points. In the elite eight Baylor and Michigan State could not be separated at the end of the regulation and Michigan State won in overtime 94-85.
During 2016/17 Wallace ranked second in the Big 12 with 5.6 assists per game, a 233% improvement on her 2.4 assists per game in 2015/16. Wallace won Baylor’s 2016/17 Melissa Jones Hustle and Courage Award.
During a video published by Baylor Lauriet titled “From Australia to Waco … check what’s coming up next for Kristy Wallace” during her senior year on 24 January 2018 Wallace commented on her decision to attend Baylor and her time at the University “I had a great feeling about it, a good gut feeling and just loved the Christian atmosphere and the successful winning program, so glad I have picked Baylor, they have been so supportive and helpful and helped me grow a lot. People are so lovely and nice to you, that’s really helped me, especially with home sickness, being so far away from home, it’s such a good family culture here. I am going to miss the people a lot and the community here at Waco.” On her future Wallace was open-minded commenting “I do want to continue playing basketball, whether that’s overseas or back home in Australia or in America I am not too sure just yet, but I want to keep playing until I can’t anymore and we will see where that leads from there.”
Wallace was Baylor’s co-captain in her senior year along with fellow senior Dekeiya Cohen. After averaging between 7.6 and 8.1 points per game in her first three seasons Wallace averaged a career-high 12.9 points per game in 2017/18. Against Stanford Wallace scored 16 points, took 10 rebounds and had seven assists. In an 81-56 victory against Texas Loghorns on 25 January Wallace scored a career-high 27 points, had seven rebounds and four assists.
In a road game against Texas on February 19, 2018 Baylor defeated Texas Longhorns 93-87 to improve the Lady Bears season record to 26 wins and one loss which enabled them to win the Big 12 regular season championship with two games remaining. Half-way through the third quarter Baylor trailed Texas 50-51, however Wallace scored 10 points in a Baylor 18-5 run that gained them the ascendancy and a 68-56 lead over Texas Loghorns. Wallace finished the victory with 23 points, took seven rebounds made six assists and took two steals. Post-game Wallace commented “I just wanted to do what I could to help my team. I just found my opportunities, and my teammates set me up, and we were able to take it to the rack a few times.”6
Seniors Wallace and Cohen won their fourth consecutive Big 12 conference regular season championship with the Lady Bears which extended Baylor’s title winning run to eight consecutive seasons and was their ninth title overall. On being a member of four consecutive Big 12 conference regular season championships Wallace commented “It’s incredible. It’s such an opportunity. I’m so thankful. Thankful to God, thankful to my family, just to have this opportunity to be here. Thankful to Kim, thankful to the coaches. It’s incredible, and I’m so blessed to be on this team and to even be competing for championships.”7
Two games later in Baylor’s final regular season game against West Virginia Wallace on 26 February suffered a non-contact injury to her right knee in the second quarter and took no further part in the game. The Lady Bears defeated West Virginia 80-54 to complete a perfect 18-0 season against Big 12 teams and finished with a regular season record of 28 wins and one loss. In the post-game presentation Baylor’s co-captains Wallace and Cohen lifted the Big 12 regular season trophy up, confetti fell from the roof and as is customary Baylor cut down the nets. There were fears that Wallace’s season could be over due to her right knee injury. After the game Baylor coach Mulkey commented “I know that if she could play, she would have been back out there, so it must be serious.”8
On 1 March 2018 it was announced that Wallace had suffered a torn Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL), ending her 2017/18 season and college career. Baylor won the Big 12 Women’s tournament and won their first two rounds in the NCAA Women’s tournament before being defeated 67-72 by Oregon State in the sweet sixteen.
During 2017/18 Wallace started all 29 games she played for Baylor and averaged 12.9 points, 5.0 rebounds, 5.3 assists, 1.0 steals and 0.6 blocked shots per game shooting the ball at 50.2% from the field. Wallace set new college career-highs for scoring, rebounding, blocked shots, field goal accuracy and free-throw accuracy. Wallace was a joint winner of Baylor’s MVP Award along with Kalani Brown and won the Melissa Jones Hustle and Courage Award for the second season in a row. Wallace was selected in the 2017/18 All-Big 12 First team and the All-Defensive team.
In four seasons at Baylor Wallace started in 92 of her 135 games and averaged 8.9 points, 3.6 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 1.2 steals per game. At the end of her college career Wallace ranked in the top 10 on a range of Baylor University Women’s basketball all-time lists, being “ranked third all-time in assists (525), fourth in three-point field goal attempts (413), fifth in three-point field goals made (158), ninth in three-point field goal percentage (.383), 10th in games played (135) and assists per game average (3.9).”9 Wallace graduated from Baylor University with a degree in health and kinesiology.
On her college career at Baylor University Wallace told balorlariat.com in April 2018 “I just want to say thank you to everyone at Baylor for having my back through the ups and downs. Being there for me and for the support, especially through my ACL injury. I’m just so thankful and blessed to have my support group at Baylor and in Waco.”10
The year after Wallace graduated from Baylor the Lady Bears progressed to the final four of the 2019 NCAA Women’s Tournament and went on to defeat Notre Dame 82-81 in the championship game to win the Lady Bears third national title. Baylor had a record of 37 wins and one loss during the 2018/19 season.
Selected by Atlanta Dream at the 2018 WNBA Draft
Although Wallace would miss the 2018 WNBA season due to her right ACL injury there was still a strong possibility that she would get selected in the 2018 WNBA draft. On April 4 the Associated Press published a 2018 mock WNBA draft. The first two sentences of the article “The Associated Press polled a panel of WNBA coaches and general managers for a mock draft of the first two rounds of the league’s draft next week. Panelists were limited to players eligible for the draft, and couldn’t pick players from their own team.”11
The Associated Press 2018 Mock WNBA Draft had Wallace being selected by Phoenix Mercury at pick 20. Wallace had attended Australian Opals training camps and the Opals head coach Sandy Brondello was also the head coach of Phoenix Mercury so had a greater familiarity with Wallace then other WNBA coaches. Phoenix had back to back selections at pick 20 and 21 and were one of two teams with back to back picks in the second round along with Atlanta Dream who had picks 15 and 16.
At the 2018 WNBA draft on 12 April at Nike headquarters Wallace was selected by Atlanta Dream with pick 16 early in the second round, one pick earlier Atlanta with their first pick in the draft selected forward Monique Billings at pick 15. Atlanta Dream’s head coach Nicki Collen told dream.wnba.com “Kristy is a versatile guard that will do whatever it takes to win. We felt with the depth of our current roster she was worth waiting a year to have with us. Her combination of size and scoring ability from the point guard position made her one of the top guard prospects in this draft.”12 During the 2017 regular season Atlanta Dream had 12 wins and 22 losses to finish fifth in the Eastern Conference.
After being drafted by Atlanta Dream Wallace told balorlariat.com in April 2018 “It’s a really exciting time. I’ve worked so hard to get to this moment and for it to happen is so awesome. I can’t wait to show them my game and learn from other professionals in the league. It’s so surreal that this happened. I am honestly speechless. I’m so thankful and blessed. This year has been really tough in a lot of ways, but for this to happen, it’s just really phenomenal.”13
2018/19 and 2019/20 WNBL season with the University of Canberra Capitals
On 3 May 2018 the University of Canberra Capitals announced that they had signed Wallace on a two-year deal. Capitals head coach Paul Goriss commented “Kristy is a livewire guard who will bring excitement, intensity and hard work to the UC Capitals line-up for the next two seasons. She is a future WNBA player and we will continue to work with Kristy to break into the Opals team in the future. She is a perfect fit to play alongside Leilani Mitchell in the backcourt and together, they will form a dynamic combination for the UC Capitals.”14 Goriss had coached Wallace when she was playing for the Basketball Australian Centre of Excellence in the SEABL and representing the Australian Gems.
After signing with the Capitals Wallace commented “I am really excited to join the UC Capitals, playing in the WNBL has been a big goal of mine. There is so much talent in the league. I can’t wait to play with Leilani Mitchell, Kelsey Griffin and Marianna Tolo – they are great leaders that I can learn a lot from.”15
In the pre-season Wallace spent considerable time with three of the Capitals leaders who like her were rehabbing injuries – Mitchell (foot) and Capitals co-captains Griffin (hamstring) and Tolo (knee). Griffin was a starter in the Capitals opening game of the season on 12 October 2018 in a road game against Sydney at Brydens Stadium. Mitchell missed the first two games of the season and Tolo was on the sidelines with Wallace continuing their recovery for another two months. Tolo made her return off the bench on 9 December in a home game against Bendigo and scored a game-high 23 points in the Capitals 94-63 victory.
The full-strength Capitals starting line-up in 2018/19 was Leilani Mitchell, Kelly Wilson, Kia Nurse, Kelsey Griffin and Mariana Tolo. Other members of Canberra’s core rotation included Maddison Rocci, Lauren Scherf, Keely Froling and Abby Cubillo.
On 21 December 2018 Wallace made her return to the court with the Canberra Capitals in a home game against the Dandenong Rangers at the National Convention Centre. Two days before her return game Wallace told WNBL Media “I’m super excited, it’s been nine months. I’ve had to put in a lot of hard work. The girls have been so supportive, they’ve been really good to me. It was so good having Tolo as a rehab buddy, she’s just such a hard worker and being with her, it was a lot easier to get through my rehab. These last couple of weeks have been challenging on my own, just slugging away. The hard work does pay off and you can tell by watching Tolo play.”16
With two minutes and 40 seconds remaining in the first quarter against Dandenong Wallace was substituted into the game. Half-way through the last quarter Wallace made a free-throw to score her first WNBL point. Wallace scored one point, made two assists and played eight minutes and 10 seconds court-time in Canberra’s 87-60 victory.
Two days later Wallace played for the Capitals against Townsville in a road game at Townsville Stadium. Wallace played some court-time at the end of the first and second quarters. With a minute and 33 seconds remaining in the half Wallace made a three-pointer, her first field goal in the WNBL, receiving an assist from Mitchell. A minute and 14 seconds later Wallace took a defensive rebound and injured her right knee. Straight away Wallace and the Capitals immediately feared that Wallace had torn her Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL).
After the game Capitals head coach Goriss commented on Wallace’s injury “She’s done the nine months of rehab with [Marianna] Tolo and Kelsey [Griffin] and been through all of that then to come out and play two games and get injured is really tough.”17 Scans confirmed that Wallace had ruptured the ACL in her right knee for the second time in 2018, having played just 13 minutes and 49 seconds court-time in her return to basketball.
In September 2020 Wallace reflected on the knee injury, telling The Pick and Roll “Tearing my ACL the second time really crushed me. I’d done everything right. I’d done absolutely everything I could, so it was just a shock. How could that happen when I had done every single thing? The first time around, it’s a bit easier because you don’t really know what you’re getting yourself into. You’re just kind of taking it day by day, but the second time around it felt like a much bigger hurdle.”18
The University of Canberra Capitals started the season strongly and continued with their momentum to record 16 wins and five losses during the 2018/19 regular season to finish on top of the ladder. The Capitals went on to win the 2018/19 WNBL Championship, defeating Adelaide Lightning two games to one in the Grand Final series.
In the off-season Wallace was at the Basketball Australian Centre of Excellence working on the rehabilitation of her right knee. Wallace had some setbacks and required two arthroscopes on her knee.
During her second season with the University of Canberra Capitals in 2019/20 Wallace was unable to play a game due to her knee injuries. The University of Canberra Capitals finished second at the end of the 2019/20 regular season with 15 wins and six losses and defeated minor premiers Southside Flyers two games to nil in close games to win the WNBL Championship for the second season in a row.
Rehabilitation at the Victorian Institute of Sport and playing for the Melbourne Tigers in the 2021 NBL1 season
After the 2019/20 WNBL season concluded Wallace moved to Melbourne and during her rehabilitation process worked closely with the Victorian Institute of Sport, in particular with VIS Physical Preparation Coach Ben King and VIS Manager of Physical Therapies Steve Hawkins.
Lacking confidence in her body after two reconstructions on her right knee Wallace considered retirement from basketball. In an article published on vis.org.au in April 2022 Hawkins commented “We were honest and transparent with Kristy from day one. When she asked us whether she would play again we answered honestly – we didn’t know. But we also didn’t know that she wouldn’t play again either.”19
The aim for Kristy initially was to be able to run again and learn more about herself outside basketball. Due to the coronavirus pandemic in 2020 the Victorian Institute of Sport closed their doors for the first time ever, creating an additional challenge as staff and athletes could only collaborate remotely. When the VIS was open a typical week for Wallace involved training in the VIS gym for five or six days a week.
Wallace commented to vis.org.au “There were days when I would be a bagful of tears, crying during my warm-up’s and having no idea what I was doing or why I was doing it. Regardless, Ben showed up every day, and that meant the world. He kept tedious rehab playful, challenged me mentally, physically and worked incredibly hard to find different strategies and methods that worked for my body. No matter how I felt walking into the VIS, I always felt better after I’d been in the building.”20
King told vis.org.au “Given everything Kristy has been through, she often faced significant fear of getting back on the court and getting re-injured.”21 Wallace continued to make progress in the gym, gained more confidence in her body and although still fearful that she might injure her knee again made a return to basketball with the Melbourne Tigers during the 2021 NBL1 season, her teammates included Zitina Aokuso and Monique Conti.
More than 28 months after rupturing her ACL for a second time in December 2018 Wallace made her competitive basketball return with the Melbourne Tigers on 16 May 2021 at the Melbourne Sports and Aquatic Centre against the Dandenong Rangers. After starting on the bench Wallace was substituted into the game with five minutes and 49 seconds remaining in the first quarter. Wallace made an immediate impact, scoring the Tigers next two field goals comprised of a lay-up followed by a three-pointer. Wallace finished the Tigers 77-70 victory with 12 points in 15 minutes and 39 seconds court-time.
After Wallace was finally able to return to play basketball the 2021 NBL1 season paused due to restrictions in place and indoor sport not able to be played due to COVID-19. More than a month later the 2019 NBL1 season resumed.
At the Melbourne Sports and Aquatic Centre in a Melbourne Tigers home-game on 11 July against a Launceston Tornadoes team featuring two of Wallace’s former Capitals teammates Griffin and Froling the scores were locked at 75 apiece at the end of the fourth quarter. With 55 seconds remaining in overtime the Melbourne Tigers trailed Launceston 82-85. Wallace made a floating jump-shot with 46 seconds remaining to reduce the deficit to one point. Wallace followed up by making a lay-up and the and one to give the Tigers a two point lead with 15 seconds to play. The Tigers won 87-86 in the first period of overtime. After starting the game on the bench Wallace scored a team-high 21 points, made eight of 15 field goal attempts at an accuracy of 53.3%, took seven rebounds, made four assists and had an equal game-high three steals.
Due to COVID-19 and restrictions in place only half of the 2021 NBL1 South season was completed. On 1 September 2021 Coles Express NBL1 General Manager Dean Anglin commented: “We are disappointed to announce the cancellation of the 2021 NBL1 South season. With a combined 154 men’s and women’s games still to be played, there will be no champion and no individual awards for the 2021 NBL1 South season.”22
Throughout the 2021 NBL1 season Wallace’s game-time was managed and she started each game on the bench. During the 2021/22 NBL1 season Wallace played five games for the Melbourne Tigers, averaging 14.2 points, 3.2 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 1.2 steals per game whilst shooting the ball at 53.5% from the field. In each of her last three games Wallace scored at least 15 points.
On the 23 February 2022 edition of SEN Breakfast Sam Edmund asked “When you first got back it must have been in your mind of course, the mental side must have been as challenging as the physical?” Wallace replied “Ah, super challenging, I really struggled with my imaging. I would always think that I was going to tear my knee again and I still struggle with that and I have got some good strategies in place to help me with that. For me coming back was just about enjoying myself, it was about nothing else other than to enjoy the game, see if this is what I love to do and I found that love while playing for the Melbourne Tigers.”
Training and playing with the Australian Opals
During a successful junior career Wallace represented Australia at under-age level and was touted as a future Opal. In February 2014 Wallace attended an Australian Opals camp at 18 years of age. In a video published by Basketball Australia Wallace commented on the Opals camp “It was a bit nerve-racking coming to this camp, playing against the Opals you know was very intimidating for me coming in but as soon as I came in and got to know the girls they helped me fit in and made me feel at home so it was good.”
In June 2017 Wallace was selected in a 21 player Australian Opals squad for a training camp held in Phoenix, USA during July in the lead up to the 2017 FIBA Women’s Asia Cup held in Bangalore, India from 23 to 29 July. Australian Opals head coach Sandy Brondello commented “Kristy comes into camp based on her performance at the FIBA Under-19 World Championships in 2015 and her recent form over the past three years at Baylor University. Kristy is a quick guard so possesses lighting speed and can play at both the point guard and off guard position. She has really improved her three-point shooting and her hustle and never give up attitude has earned her a place to the camp in Phoenix. We want to expose her to our system and style of play and evaluate her against other players from WNBL and Europe. She has the key attributes we are looking for in our players that suit our style and could potentially play against the Asian teams.”23 Wallace attended the camp in Phoenix and whilst she missed out on selection for the 2017 Asia Cup she gained valuable experience training with the Opals.
At the 2017 World University Games held in Taipei in August Wallace was a member of the Emerging Opals starting line-up for all six games at the tournament. In the gold medal game the Emerging Opals defeated Japan 85-78. At the tournament Wallace averaged 9.2 points, 5.2 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 0.8 steals per game for the gold medal winning Gems.
Despite playing very little basketball in the previous three years due to her knee injuries Wallace was named on 20 August 2021 in an Australian Opals 21 player squad for the 2021 FIBA Women’s Asia Cup. Wallace was later selected in the Opals final 12 player team for the 2021 FIBA Asia Cup held in Amman, Jordan from 26 September to 3 October.
With Australian Opals Head Coach Sandy Brondello unavailable for the tournament due to commitments in the WNBA as head coach of the Phoenix Mercury, Opals Assistant Coach Paul Goriss took over as the Head Coach for the Asia Cup. Southside Flyers head coach Cheryl Chambers continued in her role as Opals assistant coach. Wallace was one of nine members of the team that made their Australian Opals debut at the tournament.
In Australia’s third group game against China Wallace scored 14 points, made six of 13 field goal attempts at an accuracy of 46.2% and made one of two three-pointers. At the tournament Wallace played six games off the bench for the bronze medal winning Opals team and averaged 4.0 points, 1.5 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 13.6 minutes per game.
Wallace wasn’t included in a 16 player Australian Opals squad for a training camp from 31 January to 4 February 2022 in the lead up to the 2022 FIBA World Cup Qualifying Tournament, however she received a late call-up after Southside Flyers teammate Abby Bishop was ruled out due to injury.
At the training camp Wallace impressed and was selected in the Opals 12 player team for the World Cup Qualifying Tournament held in Serbia from 10 to 13 February. After being named in the Opals team Wallace told Australia.basketball “I’m so grateful to be selected as part of this Opals team and honoured to represent Australia for the second time. My basketball journey has been a long one, full of highs and lows so I’m just really happy to be playing consistent basketball again and to have this opportunity. It’s truly incredible.”24
As hosts Australia are one of two countries that automatically qualify for the 2022 World Cup along with 2020 Olympic Games gold medallists, the United States of America. Of the 10 Opals at the 2022 FIBA World Cup Qualifying Tournament that played in the WNBL during the 2021/22 season Wallace was the only one that wasn’t in their WNBL clubs usual starting five.
During the World Cup Qualifying Tournament Australia defeated Brazil 65-52 and Korea 79-61 in their first and third games of the tournament. In their second game the Opals were defeated by host nation Serbia 71-78. At the FIBA 2022 World Cup Qualifying Tournament in Belgrade, Serbia Wallace played two of the Opals three games and averaged 1.5 points, 3.0 rebounds and 2.5 assists in 8.0 minutes per game.
In the video Chargers TV Kristy Wallace interview published on 25 February Wallace spoke about representing the Opals in Serbia saying “It is a dream of mine to put on the Opals jersey, so to be a part of that Serbia squad was just a dream come true. Really enjoyed the team, enjoyed the coaches, that opportunity was unbelievable.”
Sydney will host the 2022 FIBA Women’s World Cup for five on five basketball from 23 September to 3 October with 12 teams competing in the tournament. It will be the second time that Australia has hosted a FIBA Women’s World Cup with Sydney also having been the host city in 1994 where Australia narrowly missed out on winning its first ever World Cup medal, finishing fourth after being defeated by China 65-66 in a semi final and lost the bronze medal game to the United States of America 95-100. The Opals broke through to win a bronze medal at the 1998 World Cup and have won a medal at five out of six World Cups from 1998 to 2018 including a gold medal at Rio in 2006.
The Draw for the 2022 FIBA Women’s World Cup was held in Sydney on 3 March, 2022 with Opals two-time Olympic medallist Michele Timms drawing the nations. Australia were drawn in Group B for the 2022 World Cup along with France, Serbia, Japan, Nigeria and Canada. At the World Cup there will be two groups of six teams with the top four teams in each group progressing to the quarter finals.
2021/22 WNBL season with the Southside Flyers
On 21 October 2021 the Southside Flyers announced that they had signed Wallace for the 2021/22 WNBL season. Southside Flyers head coach Cheryl Chambers told WNBL Media “Kristy is an exciting player, a real livewire who brings other players into the game. She is fast, has quick hands and importantly plays both ends of the court, complementing her offensive skills with a fantastic defensive mindset. She has a fantastic work ethic and will be an important player as well as being another quality person for our organisation, on and off the court.”25
After signing with the Flyers Wallace commented “I am really looking forward to the upcoming season with the Flyers, just starting training with the team has been exciting. I have been amazed at how Southside has established such a strong team in just two seasons. From the outside it seemed to be a happy team with a fantastic culture, and now being involved I have seen this first-hand, and it is great to be part of such a wonderful group. I am so looking forward to an exciting season with this team.”26
Five of the eight Southside Flyers players that averaged more than 15 minutes court-time per game in the Flyers 2020 WNBL Championship winning team returned for the 2021/22 season. The Southside players in this category were Jenna O’Hea, Aimie Rocci, Sara Blicavs, Bec Cole and Rachel Jarry who have more than 1,000 games WNBL experience between them. Wallace was one of five players in the core rotation recruited in the off-season along with 2014/15 WNBL MVP Abby Bishop, 2020 All-WNBL second team member Maddison Rocci, Kate Gaze and Emilee Harmon. Ben King who Wallace had collaborated with closely at the Victorian Institute of Sport was appointed the Southside Flyers Strength and Conditioning coach.
Against Bendigo Spirit on 4 December at Dandenong Stadium in the opening game of the WNBL season the Southside Flyers starting line-up was Maddison Rocci and Cole in the backcourt along with O’Hea, Blicavs and Bishop in the frontcourt.
In consecutive games for the Southside Flyers against cross-town rivals the Melbourne Boomers on 11 and 18 December comprised of a road game at Melbourne Sports Centre Parkville followed by a home game at Dandenong Stadium Wallace scored 10 points in both games. Over the two games Wallace made seven of 11 field goal attempts at an accuracy of 63.6% and was even more impressive from long range, making all four three-pointers.
On 12 January against Perth Lynx at Selkirk Stadium Wallace scored a season-high 16 points, made five of 11 field goal attempts at an accuracy of 45.5%, made her only three-pointer and five of six free-throws, took four rebounds, made two assists and three steals in a 79-83 loss in overtime.
With Cole and Aimie Rocci missing the game against Perth Lynx at Dandenong Stadium on 27 January Wallace had her only start of the 2021/22 WNBL season with the Southside Flyers and made the most of the opportunity to score 14 points, shooting at 67% from the field and had a season-high four assists with Opals coach Sandy Brondello in attendance.
The Southside Flyers had five wins and 11 losses during the 2021/22 regular season and finished seventh on the WNBL ladder. Wallace played 14 of the Southside Flyers 16 games during the 2021/22 WNBL regular season, missing two games in February due to being part of the Australian Opals team at the FIBA 2022 World Cup Qualifying Tournament in Belgrade, Serbia.
Off the bench Wallace was able to make an impact at both ends of the floor. During the 2021/22 WNBL season Wallace played 14 of Southside Flyers 16 regular season games and averaged 8.2 points, 3.4 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 0.9 steals and 22.8 minutes per game. Wallace ranked sixth at the Flyers for scoring and assists per game and seventh for rebounds and minutes played.
On 29 March the WNBL announced that Southside Flyers guard Wallace won the WNBL 2021/22 Sixth Woman of the Year Award, polling 22 votes to finish ahead of Perth Lynx forward Alex Ciabattoni in second position on 14 votes and University of Canberra Capitals guard Jade Melbourne in third place with 12 votes.
On winning the WNBL’s sixth woman of the year award Wallace told WNBL Media “I’m rapt to get this award. It came as a surprise as there was lots of talent in the line-up. The Flyers gave me the opportunity to play my first full season of WNBL and for that, I’m really grateful.”27
Below is a link to the homepage and the WNBL category of the Milestones and Misses website:
During the 2021/22 WNBL season several articles were published on Milestones and Misses to celebrate players reaching milestones including several of Wallace’s Southside Flyers teammates reaching games milestones:
- Abby Bishop 250 game
- Bec Cole 200 games
- Aimie Clydesdale 200 games
- Maddison Rocci 100 games.
After the end of the 2021/22 WNBL season articles have also been published celebrating:
- Jade Melbourne’s journey from Traralgon to play for the Australian Opals and be drafted by Seattle Storm
- Lindsay Allen winning the 2021/22 Rachel Sporn Medal for being the WNBL’s Grand Final Most Valuable Player
- Anneli Maley winning the 2021/22 Suzy Batkovic Medal as the WNBL’s regular season Most Valuable Player
2022 WNBA season with the Atlanta Dream
During the years after being selected by Atlanta in the second round of the 2018 WNBA Draft Wallace remained in contact with the team. In September 2020 Wallace told The Pick and Roll “Nicki Collen, the head coach of Atlanta, still checks in with me, even to this day she checks in. It’s just a testament to who she is as a person and the values she has for the players she recruits. She’s incredible.”28
Kim Mulkey left the Baylor Lady Bears and was appointed the head coach of Louisiana State University for the 2021/2022 college season. Nicki Collen left Atlanta Dream and was appointed Baylor’s head coach on 3 May 2021.
On 21 February 2022 Atlanta Dream announced that they had signed Wallace. Atlanta had drafted Wallace four years earlier with pick 16 at the 2018 WNBA Draft. After signing with Atlanta Dream for the 2022 WNBA season Wallace told WNBL Media “I think this is the time to give WNBA a crack, there’s no better time. I’ve had a lot of realisations and I’m doing this for the right reasons. I just want to enjoy playing basketball and being a professional. It hasn’t sunk in yet but as it gets closer, I think I’ll get those butterflies. I’m excited to meet the people at Atlanta. The coaches, I’ve been in touch with them, my new teammates. The basketball, it’s the best league in the world so to learn, practice and play with and against the best, I’m rapt to get that opportunity.”29
Between the 2021 and 2022 WNBA seasons Atlanta Dream made significant changes to their coaching and administration staff as well as their playing roster. After having two interim head coaches in 2021, Mike Peterson followed by Darius Taylor, Atlanta appointed Tanisha Wright as their head coach for the 2022 season. Dan Padover was appointed the Dream’s General Manager and Taylor is now the Assistant General Manager. Whilst Wright and Padover are both in their first seasons at Atlanta in 2022 they had worked together at the Las Vegas Aces in 2021, with Wright being an Assistant Coach and Padover the General Manager. Padover was named the 2021 WNBA Executive of the Year for his work in the role as General Manager of Basketball Operations at the Las Vegas Aces.
Fellow Australian and Wallace’s former head coach at the Canberra Capitals Paul Goriss is in his first season as a WNBA assistant coach with Atlanta Dream in 2022. Goriss was the head coach of the Capitals for six WNBL seasons from 2016/17 to 2021/22 and has been an Australian Opals assistant coach since May 2017.
Only four players from Atlanta’s 2021 roster returned in 2022 – shooting guard Tiffany Hayes, power forward Cheyenne Parker, center Monique Billings and point guard Aari McDonald. With the first pick overall in the 2022 WNBA Draft Atlanta selected small forward Rhyne Howard. In the off-season Atlanta recruited two players that played for the Los Angeles Sparks in 2021, signing Nia Coffey as a free-agent and acquiring Erica Wheeler in a trade. Hayes and Billings are the only two players that remain from the Dream’s last playoffs appearance in 2018.
During the 2022 pre-season Wallace played both of Atlanta Dream’s games. On Sunday 24 April in a home game at Gateway Center Arena against the Washington Mystix Wallace made a significant impact for Atlanta after starting on the bench, scoring a game-high 17 points in a superb shooting exhibition, making seven of nine field goal attempts at an accuracy of 77.8%, made both three-pointers and her only free-throw in 17 minutes and 23 seconds court-time in the Dream’s 88-69 victory.
Wallace was a starter in Atlanta’s second pre-season game on the road against Connecticut Sun on 1 May and again shoot the ball proficiently to score 11 points, making four of six field goal attempts at an accuracy of 66.7%, made one of two three-pointers and both free throws in a 78-94 loss.
On Saturday 7 May Wallace made her WNBA debut at 26 years of age as a member of the Atlanta Dream’s starting line-up along with Eric Wheeler, Nia Coffey, Rhyne Howard and Cheyanne Parker in a road game against the Dallas Wings at College Park Center. On a fast-break Wallace provided an assist for Parker to score the opening basket of the game 55 seconds into the first term. In Atlanta’s 66-59 victory Wallace scored six points, took five rebounds, made two assists and one steal.
Against the LA Sparks on Wednesday 11 May Wallace started for Atlanta and scored 10 points, to be one of four Dream players to score in double figures in the 77-75 victory along with Howard (21 points), Walker (11) and Parker (10).
In at Atlanta Dream 85-79 victory at home against Indiana Fever on Sunday 15 May Wallace had three assists and played 34 minutes court-time to set team-highs in both categories.
Atlanta Dream have a record of three wins and one loss which is the equal best record in the WNBA along with the Washington Mystics and Las Vegas Aces. Wallace has started Atlanta’s first four games of the season and ranks second for the Dream in assists and minutes played per game, equal second for steals and equal third for offensive rebounds.
Whilst playing basketball for Australia at under-age level and later playing college basketball for Baylor University a few of Wallace’s dreams were to play in the WNBL, the WNBA and represent the Australian Opals. With a week remaining in her senior year regular season with Baylor in 2017/18 Wallace was well placed to achieve these goals, having already attended Australian Opals training camps and was expected to be selected in the 2018 WNBA draft.
In Baylor’s final regular season game of the 2017/18 regular season Wallace tore her right ACL. After just under 10 months on the sidelines Wallace made her basketball return for University of Canberra Capitals mid-way through the 2018/19 season and just two days later tore her right ACL for a second time on 23 December 2018.
After the second reconstruction on her right knee Wallace’s main aim was simply to be able to run again. After making progress in the gym during a lengthy rehabilitation process Wallace made her basketball return a year ago on 16 May 2021 off the bench with the Melbourne Tigers in NBL1 South. Having played less than 15 minutes basketball in total during the previous 38 months Wallace feared that she would re-injure her knee but took things step by step and was able to recapture her love of playing basketball.
Reflecting on the rehabilitation process including the role that the Victorian Institute of Sport played Wallace commented in April 2022 “I never once felt alone in my rehab, even during the coronavirus pandemic, I always knew I was supported the whole way through. They’ve [King and Hawkins] guided me and given me the best advice that I will carry with me throughout life. They’re incredibly hardworking, intelligent, reliable and most importantly just great humans. I’ve learnt that it’s important to be your true self, strive to be better, and help others do that too. It’s important to grow from hard experiences and use them to discover what is really important in life.”30
In the 12 months since making her basketball return with the Melbourne Tigers in the NBL1 on 16 May 2021 Kristy Wallace’s determination, persistence and diligence has been rewarded. In her first full WNBL season with the Southside Flyers in 2021/22 Wallace won the WNBL’s Sixth Women of the Year Award. Wallace also achieved two dreams that she thought were no longer possible, playing for the Australian Opals and in the WNBA with Atlanta Dream.
Article and photographs by Dean Andrews
Twitter – @DeanAndrews7777
1 Kristy Wallace to fulfill WNBA Dream | WNBL
12 Atlanta Dream Select Three Players in 2018 WNBA Draft – Atlanta Dream
18 Kristy Wallace: The imminent return – by Lachlan Bourchier (pickandroll.com.au)
28 Kristy Wallace: The imminent return – by Lachlan Bourchier (pickandroll.com.au)
29 Kristy Wallace to fulfill WNBA Dream | WNBL
Milestones and Misses
Milestones and Misses publishes articles to celebrate the achievements of sportspeople, mainly in the Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) and Australian Rules Football (AFL and AFLW). In sport as with life in general it is common that milestones are only achieved after overcoming adversity, so whilst the articles on the Milestones and Misses website celebrate sportspeople achieving milestones they also cover the misses along the journey such as a player having minimal game-time or spending a prolonged period on the sidelines due to injury. The aim of the articles is to enable readers to gain a greater appreciation of the journey sportspeople have had during their career.
Links to the Milestones and Misses homepage and WNBL category are below:
The Milestones and Misses website was set up in December 2015. From 2020 onwards articles have been published on the following sportspeople: