Sunlake High student named Foot Locker scholar-athlete

Sunlake High School’s Andrea Wallace is more than just a star basketball player who can score and rebound at will, and dazzle in the post, with her 6-foot-1 frame.

She’s also a standout in the classroom, maintaining a 4.0 grade-point average all through high school.

Besides athletics and academics, Wallace, too, strives to make an impact in the community. It’s why she founded a school club her junior year called Pass It Forward, which focuses on empowering young girls in Land O’ Lakes to use their voice, display their strengths and encourage one another.

“She’s that kid that wants to be great,” said Reesa Hendrix-Pledge, Sunlake athletic director and girls head basketball coach.

Sunlake High’s Andrea Wallace was one of just 20 student-athletes nationwide honored this year in the Foot Locker Scholar-Athletes Program, selected from a competitive pool of over 13,000 applicants. Wallace was recognized for her academic and athletic excellence, along with her service to the community. She will play basketball next season at St. Petersburg College, with plans to transfer to a university in a year or two. (Courtesy of Sunlake High School)

In her seven-plus years at Sunlake, Hendrix-Pledge says no student-athlete better exemplifies “excellence” in all aspects of life than the senior forward.

“She’s kind of the model student,” the coach said.

Wallace’s leadership skills, too, “are like no other” — evidenced in being a three-time team captain on the girls varsity hoops team.

“A coach couldn’t ask for somebody else that can actually talk it then back it up at the same time,” Hendrix-Pledge said.

To other Sunlake teachers and administrators meanwhile, Wallace is simply “an awesome kid.”

To those who know her, it’s not far-fetched that Wallace recently became one of just 20 student-athletes nationwide honored this year in the Foot Locker Scholar-Athletes Program. She was selected from a competitive pool of over 13,000 applicants.

As a Foot Locker Scholar Athlete, Wallace was awarded a $20,000 scholarship in a surprise lunchtime ceremony on April 18 at the high school.

Wallace was told she’d be giving a presentation to district board members on her school club, Pass It Forward. However, while giving her speech in an administration room, Wallace was abruptly overcome with emotion when a pair of Foot Locker representatives entered the room and diverted her attention with a large check — literally — that read “Twenty Thousand (dollars.)”

Wallace recalled the eventful moment afterwards: “It was actually pretty funny, because when I walked in everybody had their cameras out. I was like, ‘I’m not anybody. I’m not that special.’ But, because I thought it was for the district board — that’s what I was told — so I came in and gave the speech, but when they brought the check I almost started crying. …It’s amazing. I didn’t even think that I’d be able to get that.”

Wallace’s mother, Anne-Marie, was also in attendance at the ceremony and was likewise shocked by the scholarship reveal. She used her lunch break to visit the school even though she wasn’t given the reason.

“I was completely caught off guard,” Wallace’s mother said. “This is going to be so much of a big help for her, because with (college) loans, at least it’ll be less on her.  I am very grateful; very grateful. I was not expecting this…”

Though remaining humble about her daughter’s accomplishments, Anne-Marie noted her academically and athletically gifted daughter has always displayed strong work ethic and leadership qualities.

“She’s a pretty good girl,” Anne-Marie said. “Andrea, she just works very hard, and she’s disciplined, and she has such a good attitude.”

Wallace applied for the scholarship in mid-November at the behest of Hendrix-Pledge. Her coach received a call from Foot Locker on a random Friday evening, five months later.

“It was kind of out of sight, out of mind, and then she had been chosen,” said Hendrix-Pledge, who noted she wasn’t totally taken aback, as her star pupil met all the qualifications to win the prestigious scholarship.

Wallace will play basketball next season at St. Petersburg College, with intentions to transfer to a university in a year or two. She plans to study pre-law with hopes of becoming a lawyer and a judge someday.

It all follows what’s been a momentous four-year varsity career, including her senior campaign, where she averaged a double-double (13.3 points, 10.6 rebounds) en route to Sunlake’s first 20-win season and the 7A regional finals. After the season, Wallace was awarded the Sunshine Athletic Conference East Girls Basketball Player of the Year, along with first team All-Conference honors.

Wallace made major strides on the court after her freshman season, motivated to improve after the team lost in the first round of the district playoffs.

“I was upset that we lost…so I was like, ‘I really like playing basketball, and I like being on the team, so what is a good way for me to get better?’ So, I just kind of worked that whole summer just to get better and be in a position to play.”

That she did — developing into one of the Bay Area’s top post players, and leading the Seahawks to three straight winning seasons and regional appearances.

Of her 81 career games played, one she’ll never forget is defeating Land O’ Lakes High her sophomore year in the district semifinals, 54-20. (Sunlake later defeated Springstead to capture the Class 6A district title). Said Wallace, “That was like a moment that I’ll always remember forever because we’d never, ever won anything like that. …To win our district championship and beat Land O’ Lakes High School was like really, really big.”

Meanwhile, Wallace said balancing all her commitments and responsibilities—academically, athletically, socially — at times “gets really, really difficult.”

But, she doesn’t let the pressure rattle her.

“It’s really easy to just say, ‘You know what, I’m not going to do that today.’ Like, it’s super easy to give up, so you just have to stay focused on the bigger goal,” she said.

It’s a message she often bestows on others, including her fellow teammates on achieving their dreams: “If you want to be the best, then you have to do something about it. …What can you do to push yourself to a bigger level?”

The Foot Locker Scholar Athletes program began in 2011, which has resulted in

140 total scholarship recipients over that time.

Published April 25, 2018

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