SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WROC) — If you didn’t know any better, listening to John Wallace’s speech, you would have thought he was commemorating his time at Greece Athena High School. That’s what he was doing, in a way, during his jersey retirement at halftime of today’s Syracuse game.
After watching his number 44 jersey unveiled in the rafters, he spent much of his time almost reciting a love letter to his hometown. Wallace thanked those that got him there to Syracuse; his teachers, his coaches, his mother, and his fellow Trojan teammates who he won a state title with back in 1992.
“I just wanted to thank the people that helped me get there, along that journey,” said Wallace. “Because you don’t get to Syracuse without help. All those people that I mentioned, I thought about it thoroughly and those are the people that really, really helped me get to Syracuse.”
“The first day I talked to him, in high school, he was like ‘I’m Syracuse’, and he’s been Syracuse consistently day in, day out,” said Syracuse men’s basketball head coach Jim Boeheim. “He was so important for our program. When he came, and what he did, was incredible.”
Wallace had envisioned what it would look like to see his jersey retired, and when asked about that moment, he was almost at a loss for words.
“To see it be unveiled and to see it kind of moving in the air…I was beyond elated about it,” said Wallace. “I was just trying to take it all in.”
“I’ve always bled Orange. And the day I got a letter from Syracuse is a day I’ll never forget, just like the day I ended up on campus,” said Wallace. “Those are things you never, ever forget.
Even today’s guests of honor- Tom Brady, Julian Edelman, and Jimmy Fallon, all stayed courtside to honor Wallace on his big day. His jersey hangs in the rafters among 14 other Syracuse greats, including fellow Rochester native Roosevelt Bouie.
Wallace is Syracuse’s third all-time leading scorer and rebounder, led Syracuse to the National Championship Game in 1996, and averaged over 20 points per game in his final season playing for the Orange.