Ben Wallace becoming a Hall of Famer isn’t a mid-major story. The defensive titan, who is a part of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame’s Class of 2021, didn’t attend one of the many schools that falls within this site’s impossibly wide coverage.
Nonetheless, we can certainly appreciate his story.
The rebounding maestro had humble basketball beginnings. He was spotted by Charles Oakley as a teenager, who then helped guide him on a path that took him to Cuyahoga Community College in Cleveland and ultimately, Oakley’s alma mater, Division II Virginia Union. From undrafted free agent, to NBA champion to Hall of Famer, the rest of his story is pretty well out there.
From a college angle, Wallace may well carry a number of “last guy to” monikers for the foreseeable future. Could he be the last player, gulp, ever to play in both Junior College and Division II to be enshrined in the Hall of Fame? Hopefully that won’t be the case, but Wallace is strong as proof as any that great (and interesting) basketball can come from any level.
That’s something we can get behind.
In 1996, Wallace was named a National Association of Basketball Coaches Division II First Team All-American. He was a double double machine at Virginia Union, one of many great stories at the Division II level that year. What happened next puts him in the upper tier of basketball history, but the other four names on that five-man first team have led interesting basketball lives themselves over the past two and a half decades.
Here’s what happened to Wallace’s fellow first teamers:
Stan Gouard (Southern Indiana)
The two-time Division II Player of the Year helped capture a national title for Bruce Pearl-led Southern Indiana in 1995. After a brief pro career he’s remained a force in Division II basketball, this time as a coach. He went 228-117 over 12 seasons in charge of Indianapolis, making seven NCAA Tournament appearances (and one Sweet 16) at USI’s Great Lake Valley Conference’s rival. But he’s since come home, going on his second year leading his alma mater, and could one day be the coach to lead USI and its new arena into Division I.
Kebu Stewart (CSU Bakersfield)
Wallace wasn’t the only one of that quintet to wear Jerry West on his shoulder. Stewart started his college career at UNLV, winning the 1993 Big West Player of the Year award, before crashing out of the program and landing at then-Division II CSU Bakersfield. He’d win the 1997 Division II Player of the Year while leading the ‘Runners to a national title, before being taken in the second round by 76ers and getting into 15 games in the 1997-98 season. He’d then embark on a long and globetrotting professional career that ended in 2007, and that saw him play for international giants in Hapoel Jerusalem and Red Star Belgrade.
Carlos Knox (IUPUI)
Like Stewart, Knox played for another school that would eventually make the jump to Division I. He was the 1997-98 NCAA Division II Player of the Year at IUPUI, is the leading scorer in Jags program history and has his jersey retired. After a six-year professional career he has become a fixture in coaching across the men’s and women’s games. He helped recruit and develop George Hill as an assistant at IUPUI before spending time on staff at San Diego State. On the women’s side, he’s been assistant for the WNBA’s Indiana Fever, before stints at North Texas and, currently, Cincinnati.
Tyrone Mason (Edinboro)
The Edinboro star wasn’t the last Mason to make headlines at the Pennsylvania program. He ended his career as the program’s leading scorer and was inducted into Edinboro’s Athletics Hall of Fame. That record — 1,954 points — stood until 2018 when his son, Jaymon, broke it during his senior year. “It’s a little bit of bragging rights now” the younger Mason told GoErie.com after breaking his father’s record with a 25-point game in February 2018.
So there you have it, more proof here on Mid-Major Madness dot com that there is good and interesting basketball everywhere you look, so keep watching.