If basketball allowed six players from each team on the court, Shaqwedia Wallace would be in for the women’s basketball team.
Unfortunately for the sophomore guard, each team is allowed only five players on the court at once.
But fortunately for the Owls, Wallace has thrived in her role off the bench and is producing like a starter.
“She can obviously start for us,” coach Tonya Cardoza said. “But I told her she’s a spark for us off the bench, and she has embraced it.”
Wallace has indeed accepted the role and is running with her opportunity. In 18 games this season, she is averaging 24.8 minutes per game – an improvement of 13 minutes from last season – to go along with 11.8 points per game and 3.6 rebounds per game. She is shooting 48.4 percent and 41.8 percent from the field and behind the arc, respectively.
“I’m very much OK with [my role],” Wallace said. “A lot of players worry about their role. It would be nice to start, but I get starter’s minutes and give starter’s production.”
“She’s a very good shooter,” Cardoza added. “A very explosive offensive player. She can score in bunches.”
While Wallace doesn’t get introduced before tip-off, her name certainly can be heard throughout the game. That’s all that matters for Wallace, as she doesn’t mind being the “sixth woman” for the Owls.
“I feel it’s an easy role,” she said. “If my teammates are doing well, I want to add to that. If things are not going well, I want to come in and turn things around.”
On Dec. 20, Wallace turned in what has been her best offensive game of the season. She scored 26 points in 29 minutes against Big 5 rival Villanova.
Cardoza said that type of performance is something she expects if Temple (13-7 overall, 4-2 Atlantic Ten Conference) is going to compete for a conference title and another trip to the NCAA Tournament.
Meaning, Wallace is going to need to continue her impressive play.
“Her role is not going to change,” Cardoza said. “She still needs to get better everyday. Down the stretch, she’ll have to do the same thing she is doing right now.”
Right now and this time last year must seem like ages for Wallace.
Last season, she averaged just 11.8 minutes per game for then-coach Dawn Staley and scored just 2.8 points per game in 31 games. After averaging 14.5 points, 6 rebounds and 4.7 assists per game during her senior year of high school en route to being named the Wilmington Star News Player of the Year, the decrease in production could have discouraged Wallace.
Instead, it pushed her to work harder in the offseason.
“Over the summer, I worked on my jump shot and built up my confidence and intensity,” Wallace said.
But that was just the start of it.
“I would wake up at 5 a.m. before we practice,” Wallace said. “On the hot days, I wouldn’t want to leave the room, but I’d force myself. A lot of times I put the extra effort in. I just really gained a lot of discipline.”
Cardoza sees the dedication and the jump Wallace has made over a year’s time but knows her sophomore “sixth woman” can still improve over the next two years.
“She can be anything she wants to be,” Cardoza said. “This summer is very important for her if she wants to get to that elite level as one of the better players in the A-10.”
Pete Dorchak can be reached at email@example.com.