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WNBL19: University of Capitals coach Paul Goriss on Kristy Wallace signing and a new look team

WNBL19: University of Capitals coach Paul Goriss on Kristy Wallace signing and a new look team

Speaking to this site after the 2016/17 WNBL season wrapped up, University of Canberra Capitals coach Paul Goriss reflected on some of the talented players that had come through the AIS when he coached there. Many of the youngsters he had worked with had become household names – Matthew Dellavedova, Dante Exum and Ben Simmons.

But there was one “very special player” he mentioned that was relatively unknown at the time – Kristy Wallace.

Since then, Wallace has further honed her craft at Division I program Baylor and played a starring role in Australia's gold medal winning 2017 World University Games team.

She has also signed a two-year deal with the University of Canberra Capitals, reuniting with Goriss for her first professional basketball.


'Unleashing the beast'

Goriss says the intangibles Wallace brings immediately stood out when he coached her back in 2014. “There’s very few people that I’ve coached that have that drive and tenacity and want to get better,” he says.

“My first impression of her was someone that loves the game of basketball, wants to be the best that she can and goes about it with such a high work ethic.”

The 22-year-old Wallace will now need to call on all of that work ethic to overcome the ACL injury that brought her college career with the Baylor Bears to a premature end.

The team have no doubt she can make a full recovery, however. “We’d already spoken prior to her doing her ACL,” Goriss says.

“Whether she was injured or nor we started speaking to her very early on about coming back and playing WNBL.

“The knee injury was very unfortunate, but we’re standing by her because I know how valuable she will be to our group.”

After completing studies at the Texan college, Wallace is expected to arrive in Canberra around June, where she will undertake a full medical examination and the timeline for her return to court will become clearer.

Such a major injury requires a long and taxing rehabilitation program, though Goriss has a good-natured chuckle at the suggestion the team may look to ease her into the rotation when she returns.

“Mate, there’s no easing with her,” he says. “The thing will be us trying to stop her going full tilt at everything she does.

“We’ll throw her into the line-up depending on where she’s at medically and we’ll make sure all the boxes are ticked before she gets on court. But one thing we know with Kristy is this – as soon as we unleash the beast, the beast will be at 150%.

“There will be no stopping her, I’m sure, once she gets out there.”

Wallace’s fit on the team

Wallace’s ability as a scorer and distributor were a major part of why WNBA team Atlanta Dream drafted her in the second round and view her as a valuable long-term prospect. But her leadership and lionhearted defence are equally impressive parts of her game and led to her winning Baylor’s ‘Hustle and Courage’ award.

A long 5’11 guard who was a great floor general for Baylor, Wallace is seen as a combo guard by the team. Goriss says she will be a good fit alongside one of the team’s prized signings, Leilani Mitchell.

When coaching Wallace at National Under 19s level, Goriss played her in the backcourt alongside Flames prodigy Tahlia Tupaea, and says Wallace and Mitchell could form a similar switching 1-2 duo.“No one was a point guard or an off guard (in that team), it was whoever has the ball brings it up the floor and the other becomes a lane runner.

“We’re not going to pigeonhole Kristy into a role. She’s got unbelievable speed, so we want to enhance that, whether it’s the ball in her hands or not.

Goriss also believes Wallace’s ability to play as a primary ball-handler will free up Mitchell, a career .395 shooter from three-point range at WNBA level, to play off ball and function as more of a pure scorer.

On the defensive end, Goriss says Wallace has the length and athleticism to guard small forwards as well as guards. “Our league doesn’t really have too many threes that will really take you down and post you up. So, I think she can definitely guard a one, two or three.”

 Goriss welcomed the retired Carly Wilson to the coaching staff last season. "Carly has a great basketball IQ" he says. Photo: Vanessa Lam

Goriss welcomed the retired Carly Wilson to the coaching staff last season. "Carly has a great basketball IQ" he says. Photo: Vanessa Lam

Big name players, big time expectations

Wallace, of course, isn’t the only big signing the University of Canberra Capitals have made. Marianna Tolo, Kelsey Griffin and Leilani Mitchell are all players who have been in MVP contention in this league before. Individually, each moves the needle. Collectively, they give the team a big three that has already got people talking about championships.

“We’re not going to shy away from that,” Goriss says. “We’ve recruited the team to make the top four and to push for a championship run. I think that kind of expectation is good to have.

“I also think we’ve got the right character within the group. Number one, they’re good people and number two, they’re good basketball players. They all want to play together, they want to make the team work and they’re invested in it”

Goriss concedes such a new-look team may take time to gel. “I guess that’s always one of the big challenges with a new group and unfortunately we’ve had to bring in the majority of our group over the last two seasons.”

Mitchell, Tolo and Griffin have all played for the Opals at various stages, where Goriss is an assistant coach. The Capitals will run some of the same offensive systems, meaning there is some inbuilt familiarity for the incoming or returning players.

The team still has a handful of roster spots to fill, including both import spots and Goriss says they are likely to bring in an import three, as well as a player to start at the two until Wallace can play. A big to fill in for Marianna Tolo, who also has an ACL injury, is also on their shopping list.

Goriss also reflected on the value of having club legend Carly Wilson as one of his assistant coaches last season. “Carly has a great basketball IQ,” he says. “It was difficult for her working a full-time job and then coming to practice and the games, but what she knows about the players and the WNBL was invaluable.

“She has that perspective of a newly retired player and can bring what it’s like out on the floor into the coaching seat. And she can relate to the players, that’s a great quality of hers.”

The homecoming: Marianna Tolo on her WNBL return to the UC Capitals

The homecoming: Marianna Tolo on her WNBL return to the UC Capitals