East Xtra: Senior a leader at Trinity

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Trinity Christian boys basketball coach Paul Walendziewicz likes to model his practices after those of college teams.

It is a fast-paced environment Walendziewicz oversees at practice.

"The level is a little different, but other than that we try to make everything the same as a college practice," Walendziewicz said. "We put as much effort into our practices as colleges do."

Setting the tone in practice begins with John Wallace.

As the lone senior on the team and one of the top players in Class A, Wallace relishes the opportunity. And he should get used to college-type practices.

Division III College of Wooster and Division II Pitt-Johnstown are already showing interest in this 6-foot-3 guard.

Through 12 games Wallace is averaging 21.8 points per game. Through Tuesday's 54-39 loss at Leechburg, he has scored 755 career points. This season Wallace, the team captain, is shooting 74 percent from the free-throw line. He also leads the team in rebounding, averaging about 11 per game.

Wallace's contribution to a young and rebuilding Falcons team that is 2-10 overall, 0-4 in Class A Section 4 is so much more than just numbers.

During his ninth grade season there were a number of players on the team from the class of 2013. But Wallace was the only one who stuck around beyond that freshman season.

"John is setting the tone in practice," Walendziewicz said. "The other guys look to him."

The Falcons rely heavily on three freshmen, starting guard/forward Jonathan Murphy and guard/forward D.J. Fitzgerald and guard Tyler Carter. Fitzgerald and Carter are two of the first players off the bench.

Sophomore forward TyReque Calloway, junior guard Wes La Vrinc and junior guard James Chandler also start.

"We just have to make sure we get all the freshmen in the gym and get them to the point where they are just making plays naturally," Wallace said.

"Being the only senior, it is tough. There is a lot of pressure to step up. I have to get things started, I have to come with my game face on to every practice and get the ball rolling."

There is still time for Trinity Christian to get the ball rolling and make a playoff push. It dropped its first four section contests but the second half of the section schedule is favorable with four of the five contests at home.

"We are always staying positive," Wallace said. "We have shown a lot of heart. There are games where people thought we would get blown out, but it is never like we are just getting demolished, we are always in the games. Once we get more experience, I think we can make a run down this home stretch."

Wallace, a Churchill resident, lives close enough that he sometimes walks to the school in Forest Hills. He is also a track standout who qualified for the PIAA championships in the long jump last spring. Wallace is young for his class, he will play his entire senior year of basketball as a 17 year old.

"He can score inside and outside," Walendziewicz said. "James has come a long way in four years. His ceiling is pretty high because of his athleticism and willingness to work.

"He is taking up a lot of the attention from the other teams. He gets the ball sometimes and there are three guys on him."



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