BERKELEY -- Last week, California head basketball coach Mike Montgomery said that, with junior wing Ricky Kreklow still on the shelf from Oct. 8 surgery on a stress reaction in his foot, true freshman Tyrone Wallace would have to play meaningful minutes.
On Wednesday, at Halloween at Haas, the Bakersfield, Calif., native proved that he could be an effective replacement, playing point, shooting guard and the three, scoring 12 points on 5-of-15 shooting and 1-of-2 from three-point range, adding five defensive rebounds, two steals and an assist with just one turnover.
"Tyrone's really been a smart player for us," Montgomery said. "We have him playing three positions, because we don't have guards, so he'll have to play the three sometimes, he plays the one, he plays the two. He's done a pretty good job of figuring all that out."
Wallace displayed plus athleticism, good body awareness and a willingness to drive, showing off his speed on fast breaks and even notching a dunk.
"I'm playing a lot of combo guard right now, the one and the two; I just come in wherever Coach needs me," Wallace said. "I try to make plays. I played a little three. We go through all our progressions in practice, and I play both positions in practice, so it's easier for me to pick up what I need to do. As far as the two and three, they're the same, just opposite parts of the floor, so I'm picking it up pretty well."
Wallace showed a lot of confidence in his athleticism and his physical ability - more than one would expect from a true freshman.
"I know where I need to be, and I'm feeling more comfortable in the system," Wallace said. "I hope that I can have a huge impact. I want to help my team so we can go as far as we can."
Wallace's first actual game as a Golden Bear will come on Nov. 11, against his hometown Cal State Bakersfield team at 7 PM at Haas Pavilion, and there will be a lot of familiar faces on the other bench.
"It's going to be exciting," Wallace said. "I know pretty much everybody on the team back home. I play with those guys in the summer in open gym, and it's going to be exciting to have them up here and also some of my family and friends."
Wallace is a tough on-ball defender, and pesky, particularly when he has to face starting point guard Justin Cobbs.
"It depends - sometimes we're on the same team, sometimes we're on different teams [in practice], depending on if I'm playing the one or the two," Wallace said. "I go against him and Brandon [Smith] quite a lot. Most of it is just being aggressive with the ball and being sharp on my passes. Justin tries to get in me, and I've got to be strong with the ball. I just try my best. The speed is definitely a big leap from high school to college, so to get adjusted to that is a task, but I'm doing well."
Wallace's recruiting classmate Kahlil Johnson also had a big night, going 4-for-5 from the floor for 11 points with two boards.
"Kahlil shot the ball extremely well," Montgomery said of Johnson, who hit all three of his attempts from beyond the arc. "He seems to have a knack of doing it, but really needs to figure out what we're trying to do, what the execution is, because when you break down, that's when you get in trouble. Most of the freshmen just don't know what we're trying to do and where everything is."
Johnson will also see a lot of time in the early goings, primarily at the three.
"Yeah, I can't mess with him," Montgomery said. "I can't have him play multiple positions. With [Christian] Behrens as a 4-5 and the veterans, there's not a lot of room. We could go small with him. He's big enough and he's long, but I don't know. Right now, we're short on perimeter people."
The Bears won't be short on the perimeter for long, though, with Kreklow making a lot of progress in his rehab.
Before the game, Kreklow was jacking up mid- and long-range jumpers on the other side of the court from his healthier teammates, and he spent the rest of the night elevating his injured hoof on the scorer's table.
"He's made great progress. I would think that he should be able to practice in two weeks, full-go," Montgomery said. "He's moving around now. He's shooting the ball. He's running on the treadmill at 100 percent body weight.
"He really is [ahead of schedule]. The only thing is that we can't push the bone so that it would break again. He has no pain. It's really healed well. The incision has been the slow thing, because it hasn't really scabbed over and closed up, because his feet sweat, and it stays moist all the time. That's got to get healed up, so he's had to not wear shoes so that it can scab and heal up. He's made great progress."
For the time being, though, the man on the outside appears to be back-up wing Jeff Powers, who led all scorers with 15 points, including four three-pointers.
"Jeff's a smart player. Jeff's a guy that at some point could be a coach, because he really is kind of a smart guy. He knows what you're doing. He asks good questions, he knows what you're trying to do," Montgomery said. "For him, initially, athletically, he has to be really sound. He has to be fundamentally sound. He's not going to be able to make up for mistakes. He has to be sound, fundamentally, and he knows that."