Clemson's Gray, Wallace battle adversity

January 27, 1994|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,Staff Writer

COLLEGE PARK -- Devin Gray and Corey Wallace are trying to turn around a season that is becoming a disappointment.

The Tigers entered 1992-93 thinking they had the talent to make the NCAA tournament for the first time in four years. Coach Cliff Ellis announced earlier this month that he would resign at the end of this season, however, and there were times in last night's 73-53 loss at Maryland that Clemson, which dropped into eighth place in the Atlantic Coast Conference, appeared to be a team without direction.

"Nobody expected to be 1-5 in the ACC," Wallace said. "We've got to correct the things we're doing."

Wallace, a senior forward from Severn who played at Meade High and Allegany Community College, and Gray, The Sun's Player of theYear for St. Frances in 1990-91, have dealt with an assortment of problems that have affected their play this season.

Gray averaged 17.1 points and 5.2 rebounds last year, when he became the first Clemson player since 1986-87 to lead the Tigers in scoring and be named their top defensive player.

Clemson swept Maryland last season, and Gray was a big factor in both games, coming off the bench at Littlejohn Coliseum with 27 points and six rebounds, and burning the Terps again at Cole with 23 and 12, respectively.

Gray was limited to four points and two rebounds last night -- all in the first half -- when he started at power forward opposite fellow Baltimorean Keith Booth.

Gray is averaging 12.2 points, second on the Tigers to Sharone Wright, and 5.3 rebounds, but he missed three games earlier this month with a sprained ankle, then broke a bone in the ring finger on his left hand.

The ankle took a pounding again last night, as Gray got up limpingafter he and Wright teamed to block a dunk attempt by Joe Smith. Gray went to the bench, and Maryland turned a five-point game into a blowout.

"I've got a broken finger on my shooting hand, and the foot I take off of is still hurting," Gray said. "Every time I feel like I'm ready to break loose, something pulls me back."

Gray had trouble even before the season started, as he, Wright and another teammate were charged with disorderly conduct after a brawl outside a National Guard armory in South Carolina last Oct. 23. Gray said he will contest the charge in a jury trial, where "my innocence is going to come out."

Wallace is affected by a more serious court case. On Dec. 30, his sister-in-law, Cynthia Vega-Allen, was one of the victims in a double-murder in Severn. A suspect was arrested, and earlier this week he was charged with first-degree murder.

On the day of the murder, Wallace was playing in the Rainbow Classic in Hawaii.

He returned to Maryland for the funeral services, and two days laterscored a season-high 18 points in a narrow loss to Duke.

"We're real close," Wallace said of his brother, Jeff Allen, the husband of the deceased. "I felt so bad for her [Vega-Allen] and my brother, but I had to keep on going."

Wallace had to persevere just to get back in the Clemson rotation.

He averaged 7.6 points as a part-time starter two years ago, and began last year by hitting 10 of 11 shots against Liberty. Before December 1992 was done, however, Wallace's season was finished because of a recurring shoulder injury.

Wallace gave Clemson a lift last night. He entered the game with 10 minutes left and the Tigers down 16-6. He had six points as they cut the difference to five at the half, but he missed all four of his field-goal attempts in the second half. For the season, he's averaging 5.7 points.

"Corey's an excellent shooter, he gives us instant offense off the bench," Ellis said. "Our team has been struggling on defense, and that's the area we're working on with him."

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