Muir point guard determined to make senior season special for Mustangs
Above: Muir point guard Cherrish Wallace is trying to lead the Mustangs to a CIF title before heading to Baylor University. (Pasadena Star-News Staff Photo / Walt Mancini)
By Scott Galetti, Staff Writer
PASADENA – When the Muir High School girls basketball team lost to San Clemente in last year’s CIF-Southern Section playoffs, they left the floor with an empty feeling in what seemingly was a year of destiny.
Cherrish Wallace remembers the feeling all too well and is focused on making her senior season a magical one with a CIF title.
The Mustangs’ lightning-quick, 5-foot-4 senior point guard was ready to take the court immediately after the loss to San Clemente.
“Man, I was so hungry to get back onto the court,” Wallace said. “That loss just gave me so much fire to get better, and I felt as though that was our year, but you can’t win everything.”
She is averaging nearly 13 points, five assists, five rebounds and two steals as the Mustangs have raced out of the starting gate to a 13-1 record.
Wallace can concentrate on her final season on the girls basketball and track teams with the comfort of having her collegiate plans already taken care of.
Wallace signed a letter of intent to play at Baylor University next season during the early signing period.
The Bears won the NCAA Division I championship in 2005.
Baylor coach Kim Mulkey, a former All-American and Olympic gold medalist, is looking forward to having Wallace in her program.
“I feel very blessed that we got her,” Mulkey said.
She saw Wallace play at a Nike showcase event and was impressed with the senior’s speed.
“Cherrish is extremely quick,” Mulkey said. “She has a small body, but has the speed and quickness to create havoc at this level.
“You can’t coach speed and she has it, and we’re going to utilize it, especially on the defensive side of the ball.”
One of the reasons Wallace chose Baylor over Long Beach State, San Jose State and Hampton was the fact she wanted to learn from someone familiar with her position. Mulkey more than fits that criteria.
“To be coached by a coach that’s accomplished many things and she’s also a point guard,” Wallace said of Mulkey, who is a member of the National High School Hall of Fame.
With the departure of Darxia Morris, who now is at UCLA, Wallace, who averaged close to 11 points a game last season, has embraced the role as the Mustangs’ team leader.
“I knew that I need to develop as far as being more mature, and to step it up because the girls are going to need me for our senior year,” Wallace said.
Wallace, flanked by a cast which includes juniors Brittany Henderson and Eliza Pierre, and senior Chrishawn Frierson, has been the focal point of Muir coach Gary Johnson’s scheme.
“She’d been on varsity for three years, started as a freshman and she runs our offense and I don’t even have to call it, sometimes,” Johnson said.
“Cherrish, Brittany and Eliza all have that basketball awareness.”
Johnson looks to Wallace to carry the team despite the talent around her.
“I put everything on her and I believe in the senior thing, so everything goes through her,” Johnson said. “I’ll talk to her about something and we’ll go with it.
“It’s a lot more on her because I really want to get her ready for next year because she’s going big-time, so she’s going to have to make that adjustment.”
Wallace’s extra responsibility, as well as the work load put upon her by Johnson, could aid in the point guard’s transition to Baylor.
It’s a taste of the rigorous system that awaits her under Mulkey at Baylor.
“She’ll need to be a leader for our basketball team,” Mulkey said. “She’ll be a point guard for us and she’ll have a lot to learn and a lot will be thrown at her.”
Johnson believes Wallace is up to the challenge of playing at the next level. The only area he feels she needs to improve is strength.
“What a lot of coaches say she needs is to get stronger, and that’s going to be a top thing to get her upper and lower body stronger,” Johnson said.
“She has the jump shot over someone, so it’s just basically getting stronger physically.”
Wallace will get plenty of conditioning in the spring as a member of the Mustangs track and field team, on which she participates in the girls’ 800-meter relay and the 100 and 200.
As she concludes her final season on the varsity basketball team, Wallace plays every game remembering the lesson she learned in last year’s loss to San Clemente.
“I personally learned that basketball is mental,” Wallace said. “I knew it, but didn’t know it was that serious as far as getting prepared for big games like that.
“It takes a team effort to win big games.”