Birthday baller: Cason Wallace shines in season opener


Jack Weaver

Kentucky Wildcats guard Cason Wallace (22) guards Sahvir Wheeler (2) during Big Blue Madness on Friday, Oct. 14, 2022, at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky. Photo by Jack Weaver | Staff

Cole Parke, Sports Editor

Kentucky mens basketball’s season opener against Howard was ripe with storyline potential, but one player who especially stole the headlines was freshman guard Cason Wallace.

Wallace finished the game with 15 points, shooting 7-11 from the field and 1-2 from beyond the arc, with eight rebounds and nine assists, just a few metrics away from securing the fourth ever triple-double in UK history.

To make matters more impressive, the performance came on a special day for Wallace: his birthday.

Kentucky head coach John Calipari was well-aware of the occasion, saying the team celebrated his birthday before the game, joking that Wallace had refused to share the brownies made for him by Calipari’s wife Ellen.

“Ellen gets mad if I don’t bring the guys over to the house, she’s like, ‘Where are the guys?’” Calipari said. “She had brownies today — it’s Cason’s birthday — so he had brownies that he did not share.”

Despite these heinous claims, Wallace denied the accusations, claiming they were “not true.”

On the court though, Wallace’s impact was felt immediately for Kentucky, which started the game relatively flat offensively.

The freshman made all three of Kentucky’s first field goals, scoring six of UK’s eight points, with the other two coming courtesy of Jacob Toppin on the free-throw line, by the time the first media timeout was called.

Nearing the end of the game, Wallace found himself just two rebounds and one assist away from etching his name in the UK history books with a triple double.

“I didn’t know (how close I was) until late in the game, Lance (Ware) was like, ‘Yo, everybody box out and let Cason rebound.’ That’s my man right there,” Wallace said about his performance and role on the team. “I feel like I did pretty good just using my body and hitting the open man when they’re open. Whatever coach needs me to do, if he needs me to play the one, I’ll play the one, if he needs me to go to the two, I’ll do that as well.”

Unfortunately for the freshman, and the historians in the audience, Wallace was unable to secure the figures needed as he was subbed out of the game, along with Toppin, Chris Livingston, Antonio Reeves and eventually Ware in favor of Adou Thiero, Brennan Canada, Walker Horn, Kareem Watkins and Ugonna Onyenso in the closing two minutes.

Despite that, Wallace emphasized that he would earn a triple-double this season, determined to leave his mark on the Kentucky program in his freshman season.

If he is able to secure a triple-double this season he will go down as just the fourth Wildcat to ever record the statistic, with the most recent triple-doubles recorded by Isaiah Briscoe, who eventually went on to play for the Orlando Magic, and current Sacramento Kings starting point guard De’Aaron Fox, both of whom accomplished the feat during the 2016-2017 season.

Calipari took note of Wallace’s game against Howard, praising the rookie guard’s play during what will go down as his official college debut, despite the number of exhibitions and scrimmages he played in.

“He did good,” Calipari said. “He (almost) had a triple-double, just a couple more rebounds. Who’s the last guy to get a triple-double for me? Briscoe and Fox? He’s doing good, and the biggest thing is doing it without a post presence.”

Calipari also joked about the competitive nature of Wallace, who stared down his head coach a few times during the game after overcoming the challenges set forth for him by Calipari.

“He is tough,” he said. “We got on him because he missed all those lefty layups, so he made one and he looked right at me. Then he said, ‘You know what? I’m just going to go dunk it,’ and I said, ‘You can’t dunk on a play,’ so he dunked it and looked over. This kid walks in the gym and is like, ‘Where’s your energy coach?’ He’s fun to be around. He’s a competitor.”

Calipari was not alone in praising Wallace, with his teammate, shooting guard Reeves, also praising Wallace for his play.

“I saw on the board that he was close (to a triple-double), that made me happy,” Reeves said. “He has a leader ability as a freshman, he even tells me things like where I’m supposed to be on the floor and what I’m doing wrong. His game tells it all, he gets assists, he gets down there low, he scores, he’s an all-around player.”

With a near triple-double in his collegiate debut, it appears the sky may be the limit for Wallace as he continues his collegiate career with Kentucky.

The Wildcats, and Wallace, return to action on Friday, Nov. 11, against Duquesne inside Rupp Arena with tip off against the Dukes scheduled for 7 p.m. EST and airing live on the SEC Network.