She swam here.
As Kristy Wallace said it, she crinkled up her nose and tilted her head slightly back, unable to hold back a laugh.
Of course she flew.
She’s been asked if she has a kangaroo in her backyard or a koala too many times to count.
Wallace has also been asked if Christmas is celebrated down under, a question that can only be answered with a, “Duh,” and a look that had to be taught by Kalani Brown.
You’ve seen it. You know what I’m talking about.
As Wallace laughed about the crazy questions she’s gotten about Australia since coming to Baylor — she even thought back to her freshman year when her teammates couldn’t understand the plays she called because of her accent — she did so seated in a chair on the main court of the Ferrell Center, her injured right knee crossed over her left.
There was no bitterness about how her senior season ended, no complaining about what she had to do in physical therapy. Of course, Wallace wouldn’t have done that anyway. But there was an added excitement about her.
She underwent surgery in Australia nearly two months ago. Wallace got a phone call earlier this month that still has her shocked and speechless. It also has her more motivated than ever to come back stronger from this injury.
Even though Wallace won’t be 100 percent cleared to take part when WNBA training camps begin on Sunday, that didn’t stop the Atlanta Dream from drafting her with the 16th pick of the WNBA Draft.
“Hearing my name get called out, man, I was shocked,” Wallace said. “I’m just so thankful that Atlanta took the chance on me and trusts me and what I do. It’s incredible. I was so blessed.”
Feelin’ the love at Baylor
Looking back at it, Wallace thinks that five was too many. It was still epic, she said, but she was exhausted.
She and her family put together a two-week long trip to the United States where they would visit five different schools and Wallace would ultimately decide where she would attend college. They went to Washington, Louisville, Purdue and SMU before they came to Waco.
And there was something about the Lady Bears’ program that made Wallace decide to don the green and gold for the next four years of her life.
“I knew Waco was a small town. I had heard about it and had done my research,” Wallace said. “Just what surprised me, well not really surprised me, but the amount of support and how people back women’s basketball and back coach Mulkey and the team, it’s just a foreign thing to me. It didn’t surprise me. It’s just so foreign being from Australia where we don’t get that much support.”
Fast forward to a couple weeks ago, and Wallace had tangible evidence of how much the Baylor family was rooting for her. When she got back to America after undergoing ACL surgery in Australia, there were letters piled high on her chair in the locker room wishing her well when she returned.
“It was so awesome just having that support,” Wallace said. “It was a devastating knee injury, but the support that I’ve had has been so amazing. I was so thankful, so thankful for those letters.”
Accent on winning
She can’t keep it together when she thinks about when she called out the play, “Baylor” during her freshman year. All that comes to mind is the blank stares of the rest of her teammates on the court. And the laughter grows.
“Language barriers,” she said with a smile as she shook her head. “I’m screaming at them, and no one knows what I’m saying because I’m not pronouncing the ‘r.’ I think the girls got used to my accent. That was a struggle.”
By the way Wallace orchestrated the Lady Bear offense her senior season, her teammates definitely understood her. Wallace ended her Baylor career ranked third all-time in assists (525), fifth in 3-pointers made (158) and 23rd in scoring (1,212).
Since the moment she stepped foot on campus, she’s been a fan favorite. The girl with the blonde braided ponytail has been the picture of what hustle and heart look like, in addition to what it looks like to be a good teammate. She’s put together monster performances, dagger 3-pointers and nifty no-look passes that are met by oohs and aahs even from the media who are supposed to be unbiased while sitting courtside covering the game.
She received WBCA All-America honorable mention honors in 2018, was a unanimous all-Big 12 first team selection and was named the espnW Player of the Week in January after she went off in back-to-back games against ranked foes in Texas and West Virginia.
When asked what keyed her stellar performance against Texas (27 points, seven rebounds, four assists), she replies that she doesn’t know. And that’s the only time she talks about herself.
“My teammates had great games, too,” Wallace said. “Dekeiya Cohen stood up. The crowd was electric. It was just a really fun game to play in.”
Wallace figures she should probably have it hanging up somewhere, but for now she just keeps it in her room. She’s talking about the gold medal she won this past summer when she played with Australia’s emerging Opals at the 2017 World University Games in Chinese Taipei.
“It was really cool,” Wallace said. “I was part of a group of girls that were so selfless and had great leadership. Playing with them taught me a lot. We had great coaches, too. It was such a great team environment. We ended up winning the gold medal which was such a phenomenal experience.”
Add her gold medal to the bronze she won in 2015 on Australia’s U19 Women’s World Championship team in Chekhov, Russia, and the silver she took home last summer on the Australian U23 National Team in the inaugural U24 Four Nations Tournament in Tokyo.
With the next summer Olympics a little more than two years away, Wallace doesn’t deny her aspirations to play for Australia on that stage.
“I’ve got dreams to play, absolutely, for the national team,” Wallace said. “We have so much talent in Australia, a great group of girls. It’ll be tough to get in. We have so much talent and are so well coached. It will be a tough team to crack. It’s a dream of mine. Hopefully in the future, one day, that will happen.”
But for now, she has another Dream to focus on.
“I can’t believe it”
She was outside when her name was called. Then her phone started buzzing in her pocket. Then her “best mate’s” mom called for her to come inside as they backed up the TV.
Wallace had been drafted with the 16th pick by the Atlanta Dream.
“I talked to some coaches before I got drafted but I honestly didn’t expect anything,” Wallace said. “I just assumed that they kind of talked to everyone and that was it. Hearing my name get called out, man, I was shocked. I’m just so thankful that Atlanta took the chance on me and trusts me and what I do. It’s incredible. I was so blessed.”
Before she got drafted, Wallace’s plans were to return home to Australia and rehab her knee. Then she hoped she’d eventually play WNBL (Women’s National Basketball League), Australia’s version of the WNBA.
Now, she’ll return home to rehab her knee before reporting to Atlanta next year.
“I won’t sign the contract this year,” Wallace said. “I’ll be back next year for training camp. It’s just delayed a year. I’m still shocked that I was drafted. I can’t believe it. It’s so cool.”