WHEELING - Funny thing, but a broken finger seemed to set the stage for even bigger things.
The story goes that Linsly's Anthony Wallace, as a youngster, was playing basketball with his dad, Charles, a former football player at Wheeling Central in his day.
The young Anthony drove to the basket.
Photo by Dave Morrison/Linsly’s Anthony Wallace, seated, signed his national letter-of-intent to play basketball at West Liberty Tuesday in a ceremony at the school. Standing, left to right, Linsly Athletic Director Dan Buchwach, father Charles Wallace, grandmother Donna Dowd, grandmother Ilene Friede, mother Rebecca Friede and Linsly head coach James Wallace.
"And I broke his thumb," Charles said, laughing a little at the memory. "He was trying to drive, went up for a shot, and I caught his thumb."
Dad felt bad about it.
Anthony just felt the pain.
"Looking back, I remember I hadn't felt that much pain in my life," Anthony said. "Right after that, though, I remember still wanting to play. When I look back on that now, it reminds me of how much I love this game. Despite the pain, I still wanted to play. Outside of family and school, I love basketball."
Wallace will take that love for the game to West Liberty, officially signing with the Hilltoppers, who advanced to the NCAA Division II national championship game last month, Tuesday in a ceremony at the school.
"It's a special day," Anthony said after he signed on the dotted line.
"You never know what can happen. I'm glad to finally do it. I'm thankful to God for allowing me to be healthy and allowing me to find the perfect school. I'm just really thankful and fortunate to sign with a great school, with a great coach, great teammates and a great tradition. It's exciting."
West Liberty is getting a good one, too.
As a senior, Wallace averaged 22 points per game to go along with nine rebounds and five assists. As a combo guard.
"He has a great skill set and he's going to be playing in a great program with a great coach at West Liberty," coach James Wallace, no relation, said. "Everything they do at West Liberty is first class. Coach (Jim) Crutchfield runs an top-notch program. I can't think of a better situation for Anthony. West Liberty has one of the most successful programs in the nation."
Wallace, during his time at Linsly, was one of the OVAC's most successful players.
He ended his career with 1,556 points (18.8 points per game for his career) along with 120 3-point field goals.
"I look at myself as a player who can do a lot of different things," Wallace said. "I can score if I need to but I also like being a playmaker. I like to get my teammates involved. I will play defense, take charges. Whatever it takes to win games. That is the most important thing."
He can score in bunches, as evidenced by his 45 points this season at Bishop Donahue. Or his 37 against Class A state champion and OVAC Class 2-A champion Wheeling Central.
He also had several games with double figures in rebounding and others with double figure assists numbers, a sure indication of his ability to do a little bit of everything.
It started early.
As a third grader, Charles wrote up a proclamation that Anthony pledge to work toward becoming a Division I player. Anthony signed it.
"I couldn't be a more proud of him because I know how hard he worked to get to this point and he is playing in a top-notch program," Charles said.
"Sometimes we lose sight of what it means to be successful and worry too much about divisions," Coach Wallace said. "Anthony will be successful because of his work ethic."
"I've gone to a lot of West Liberty games, and I know it just felt right when I went there," Anthony said. "Everything about it told me that was where I was supposed to be."
These days, Wallace spends a lot of time at school giving back.
Young aspiring players often ask him to shoot with them, or ask him questions. He is a bit of a modern day pied piper, with many young followers on Twitter and Instagram.
"It's very humbling," the reserved young Wallace said. "Little kids ask me to shoot, or they have questions. Sometimes, they just say 'good game.' I am very fortunate to be in the situation I'm in and I try to look at it that way. I'm very blessed."
At Linsly, he never got to play in a state championship.
"People ask me that all the time," Anthony said. "Yes, I never got to play in a state championship but Linsly put me in a position to achieve my goal of playing college basketball. I owe a lot to having the opportunity to play here and I will always give back when I can."
"We feel like he is equipped with all the skills he needs to be successful, as not just a player but as a student as well," Coach Wallace said.
He also eventually got back at dad for the broken thumb.
"Anthony, when did you start beating me (in basketball)?" Charles asked him. "About sixth grade? Yeah, I can't beat him anymore."
That's OK. Many opponents had the same feeling during his career.
And that is just beginning.