By Donald Heath
Special for the Effingham Herald
SPRINGFIELD – Four days after playing a state playoff football game for Effingham County High School, Keion Wallace and Timmy Brown turned in their cleats for sneakers.
Just like that it was basketball season and for the duo, it was like riding a bike. Some things you never forget. Wallace sank three 3-pointers and a layup during a decisive six-minute run. Brown’s first field goal was a dunk, and the Rebels breezed to a 66-35 win over Bryan County.
How hard could it be to transition from football to basketball?
“You just have to get out of football shape and get into basketball shape,” Brown said.
They’re not the same?
“No, no. Conditioning, that’s the key,” Wallace said. “In football, you stop. In basketball, it’s down the court, down the court.”
To the unsuspecting, the seniors, both defensive backs in football, made the switch look seamless. But Wallace said he was playing with a groin injury. Other football-playing basketball players – Ashley Thompson and Nate Hayes – sat out to give nagging injuries a rest.
“That’s another big thing (about the transition), the injuries you get in football,” Wallace said.
ECHS first-year coach Travis Priddy didn’t start Wallace or Brown. Other members of the team had been practicing since Oct. 24 – the first day for team workouts under Georgia High School Association guidelines.
“We had practice Monday, but it wasn’t very much, maybe an hour and that was the first time (Brown and Wallace) touched a basketball,” Priddy said. “New coach, new system, everything is brand new for them and the rest of the team.”
It didn’t help that a scrimmage against Groves was canceled Nov. 10 because of hurricane/tropical storm Nicole.
Experience, however, can go a long way and Wallace and Brown have been playing varsity basketball for three years. As a sophomore, Wallace was the Region 2-AAAAAA Player of the Year. Last year, he was a first-teamer. Brown made honorable mention.
“It’s almost me trying to get adjusted to them,” Priddy said. “They know each other so well. I’m not too worried about them getting in the swing of things and what we’re trying to do. They played off their athleticism tonight.”
Wallace finished with 19 points, 11 coming during a 17-2 run which boosted ECHS into a 29-8 first-half advantage.
Wallace confidently made three 3-pointers.
“They weren’t expecting it because they thought we were still in football,” said Wallace, who admitted having an extra warm-up session by shooting baskets with Brown in gym class on Monday and Tuesday.
“Don’t get me wrong, during football we didn’t play basketball. That was forbidden,” said Wallace, who suffered a shoulder injury playing summer pickup basketball and sat out nearly his entire junior football season after surgery.
Wallace and Brown have both drawn Division I football attention. Wallace is a three-star rated wide receiver by recruiting Internet site 24/7 and has 16 offers. Brown has an offer to play at Army.
Now, getting to the hoop can take priority over getting into the endzone. ECHS won 18 basketball games and advanced to the region championship game last season and Brown and Wallace were a big part of the success.
“It was fun getting back with the (basketball) team,” Brown said.