Former USF star still in the game

In 1974. he was a 317-pound, 5-foot-9 nose guard on his Gary, Ind., freshman high school football team. With a 6-7 dad and 6-2 mom, Wallace Bryant knew that he was not destined to remain 5-9.

During Bryant’s sophomore year, Earl Smith Jr., the school’s basketball coach, spotted this “big guy with a nice hook shot” as Bryant played some pickup hoops.

Smith Jr. would be the catalyst for Bryant’s physical transformation. By the next year, names such as “Fat Albert” were no longer being tossed in his direction. Bryant had grown 13 inches while losing 90 pounds in one year.

“There was a new basketball player at school, and that was me,” Bryant said. “Coach made me run a mile a day, he put me on a jump rope, and I ate a lot of macaroni with no cheese.”

The power forward-center selected USF over Louisville, Tennessee and other elite collegiate programs that had courted him. Bryant recalls his USF recruitment visit, driving across the Bay Bridge and catching that first glimpse of The City.

“I fell in love with San Francisco right then and there,” he said.

Bryant graduated in 1982 with a degree in business and a minor in accounting, developing skills utilized in his post-playing career as the owner of three nightclubs. Playing alongside USF hoops greats Bill Cartwright and the late Quintin Dailey, Bryant’s teams won three consecutive West Coast Conference championships and gained NCAA Tournament berths all four years.

A second-round pick by the Chicago Bulls, the 7-footer (he grew a few inches after the initial growth spurt) enjoyed a 15-year NBA and overseas professional career. His Argentine team won the South American Championship in 1996-97, Bryant’s final professional season at the age of 38.

“There’s only one thing that I longed to have, and that would’ve been to play on a team that won an NCAA or NBA championship,” Bryant said.

The 2008 USF Hall of Fame inductee returns to The City on Thursday as coach of the California Sea Kings. The American Basketball Association franchise based in Monterey Bay will face the San Francisco Rumble, the 2009-10 NoCal Division champions.

Bryant, in his first year with the Sea Kings, has compiled a roster of athletes from across the globe, Santa Cruz to
Senegal.

The players, who earn $300 per game, hope to enjoy some of what coach has experienced in his life. “Their dream is to get to the NBA, go overseas to play, support their families, and enjoy the game,” Bryant said.

 

SemiPro Ball in the City

San Francisco Rumble vs. California Sea Kings

When: Thursday, 7:30 p.m.

Where: Rumble Pavilion at City College of San Francisco

Tickets/Info: www.gorumble.net

ABA’S NoCal Division: Rumble, Sea Kings, Bay Area Matrix, Modesto Hawks, East Bay Pit Bulls, Sacramento Heatwave

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