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Kristy Wallace Interview: An incredible comeback and rookie season

Kristy Wallace was a true diamond in the rough for the Atlanta Dream this season and looks to be a key cog going forward.

Atlanta Dream v Phoenix Mercury
Kristy Wallace (with ball)
Photo by Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images

The 2022 Atlanta Dream were a very interesting team indeed. Even though they missed the playoffs, I really enjoyed watching a lot of the players on this team that I believe will help them be a contender for years to come.

One player in particular that I enjoyed watching was Kristy Wallace. I remember watching her in several Dream home games that I attended and being impressed with how much grit and hustle she always had on both sides of the court.

I was able to speak to Wallace one day after practice last month and learn more about her. This interview has been edited for clarity.

Swish Appeal: That person who you were talking to. Was that Ben King or Steve Hawkins? Who was that?

Kristy Wallace: Those are guys, so they’re Australian. They helped me get back from my injuries, so Steve Hawkins is a physio.

Is that Steve Hawkins? Is that him?

Steve Hawkins, he’s a trainer, like a physio and Ben King was my weights coach. Really good relationship with those two.

Was that him that we just saw there? Who was that just leaving?

Oh no, that was Paul Goriss. That’s our assistant coach. They’re in Australia, those two: Steve and Ben.

What kind of training did you do?

I did three years of rehab with those guys.

Was it grueling?

It was very grueling. It was long. I didn’t know if I’d come back. I didn’t know if I was able to get back to playing basketball, but those two helped me get in shape and ready to go.

You really didn’t think you’d come back to play basketball?

No, I thought I had to retire. I couldn’t move without pain for a long time, so I’m glad I’m back.

Suffering not one, but two ACL tears, what was that like?

Yeah, rough man. So I did my first one in 2018 in America while I was at Baylor in college, and then, as soon as I got back, so I did the nine-month recovery, and then, at my second game back, I tore it again, and then I had two more complications coming back, so I had two more surgeries just to scope out some cartilage and stuff, so yeah man, three-year process, it was really tough, but had good support team around me that helped me get back.

How was it like going through a three-year process of recovering?

Yeah, really hard. It felt never-ending because I had to get the repeat surgeries too and it was frustrating, but again, having a good support team around me to help me get back was really good.

This support team, how did they help you get back?

Yeah, so I did a lot of mental health work. Psychology.

Mental health?

Yeah, it can be pretty isolating and really hard mentally when you get injured, so I did a lot of work around that.

What about your teammates? Your coaches? Were they not there?

I wasn’t with a team for a while, so I was with a team for the first two years and then the last year, I didn’t have a team because no one wanted me because I was injured, so I was doing it alone.

How does it feel now that you’re not alone now?

So good. I love being a part of this team especially. Everyone’s such a good person. It’s a really good organization. I’m really lucky to be here.

You’re really lucky to be here? Like how so?

Oh dude. Well, I didn’t know if I’d come back to play personally and the fact that they gave me a chance to come, even after my injury history, and to be a part of such a cool organization, one that wants to grow and get better as well, yeah, I’m very lucky to be a part of it.

Let’s go back to teams that you played for. You played for Baylor. How was it like being there?

Cool, man. So I was there for four years. It was different because Texas is different.

Oh, Texas is different?

Coming from Australia to Texas is different.

Oh yeah. That’s a big culture shift.

Yeah, big culture shift exactly, but I really enjoyed my four years. Yeah, it was tough, it was really tough, and I had to get used to the American system.

How so?

Well, firstly, everyone’s just so much more athletic around here, but also, just like the college system, being a freshman, sophomore, junior, senior, what each year kind of entails.

How is the Australian system different from the American system?

Yeah, we do it differently. We don’t really do like college basketball. We do, but it’s not like over here. There’s no money in it and it’s not competitive like it is over here.

There’s no money in it? In Australia?

For the college system, for college sports is what I mean.

How is there no money in that?

It’s just not as big.

They don’t go out to the games?

Yeah, no, they don’t. It’s just not as big, so we have professional teams which people get into, so I played in the WNBL, which is an Australian basketball league, so I played in that for a couple of years and I’m going back this offseason to play for them.

You’re going back?

Yeah, I’m going back to play in the Open and I’m really looking forward to it.

Kim Mulkey? What was she like?

Yeah, tough coach. Really high expectations, but really knows the game. I learned a lot from her, but it was tough. I won’t lie, it was really tough. She had very high standards for her players, which is a good thing. If you want to win championships, that’s what you have to have.

What made you want to play basketball? Out of all the sports: cricket, rugby, soccer, what made you want to play basketball?

Literally, my older brothers and sisters played and that’s why I played. I probably would never have played unless they did. So I played that, but I also played a ton of other sports. I did soccer, I did rugby, I did AFL (Australian Football League), swimming, athletics, all kinds of stuff.

So what made you realize that basketball was what you were best at?

I loved all of the sports, but I think that my parents wanted me to narrow it down because it was getting too expensive to do all the other sports, so they were like ‘time to narrow down.’

What do you hope to do in your career in the WNBA?

I just want to be a part of a good team. Like it’s not necessarily personal accolades for me, but I just want to be a part of a good organization, a really good team, just be around good people. That’s my goal.

How often do you speak to your family?

It differs from each one of them, but my brother has just had a baby, so I’m really excited to meet my little niece.

How proud is your family of you?

Oh they’re proud, they’re proud. I’m very lucky to have a supportive family.