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Former Poly basketball player Ian Wallace, a three-time state champion, dies at 19

Poly's Ian Wallace defends during an MPSSAA Class 3A boys basketball semifinal against C. Milton Wright in March 2019 at Xfinity Center in College Park.
Poly's Ian Wallace defends during an MPSSAA Class 3A boys basketball semifinal against C. Milton Wright in March 2019 at Xfinity Center in College Park. (Brian Krista, Baltimore Sun Media Group)

With his athletic, 6-foot-7 frame, Ian Wallace was easily recognized as a basketball player — and he was a good one, playing a major role in helping Baltimore Polytechnic Institute win three straight state championships.

Those who knew the 2020 Poly graduate and Woodlawn resident say he was also much more: a fine son and brother, a friend to many and a teenage entrepreneur.

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Mr. Wallace, who was in his first semester at Morgan State University studying entrepreneurship, died Thursday night in a car accident in Baltimore County. He was 19.

“Ian was as good a representative of our program that we’ve ever had as far as what we wanted to aspire to be. He was a caring teammate, committed to the group and its mission,” said former Poly coach Sam Brand. “He was just overall looked at as a positive person who always brought positive energy and he went out of his way to make people around him feel comfortable. ... Having someone like Ian Wallace around always made things better.”

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Ian Jordan Wallace, the son of Ronald Wallace, an administrator at Carver Vocational Technical High School, and Antoinette Wallace, an administrative assistant for the Anne Arundel County District Court in Annapolis, was born May 2, 2002, and raised on Walther Avenue in Northeast Baltimore.

Ian Wallace was a 2020 Poly graduate and a first-year student at Morgan State University.
Ian Wallace was a 2020 Poly graduate and a first-year student at Morgan State University. (Handout / Baltimore Sun)

After graduating from Poly, Mr. Wallace, who started a clothing line with former Poly teammate Josiah Lamothe, spent one year at Mount Zion Prep before enrolling at Morgan State. He was returning home from his job at Southern Blues restaurant in Randallstown on Thursday night when the car accident took place.

“Ian was one of the most respectful kids that you can have, just an awesome person, great personality, awesome teammate — all his teammates loved him,” Ronald Wallace said. “As a parent, I couldn’t have asked for an easier kid to raise. He was a good student, good athlete and just an all-around great guy. Just gone too soon in my opinion.”

After getting called up to the varsity basketball team late in his freshman season in 2017, Mr. Wallace became a fixture for the Engineers. Poly became the first program to win three straight Class 3A state titles and was going for a fourth in his senior year before the 2020 season was canceled due to COVID-19.

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Before many big games, Mr. Brand recalls his starting forward, looking to ease his mind, grabbing a Rubik’s cube and having it solved in a matter of seconds.

Mostly a starter for the Engineers after his freshman season, Mr. Wallace hit one of the program’s biggest clutch shots during his junior year in a highly anticipated game against private school power St. Frances. At the William Wells Classic at Towson University’s SECU Arena on Jan. 25, 2019, his jumper with 18 seconds left was the difference in Poly’s 59-58 comeback win.

Mr. Brand said Mr. Wallace brought so much more than big points to the program.

“A lot of people aspire to be the best shooter or best passer or best defender, and people don’t really understand how important it is just to have a great teammate. And that’s what I can say about Ian is he was as good of a teammate I’ve ever been around,” he said. “When I think how I would want people to view my own kids, that’s how I would want. Having the skill is one thing, but just being viewed as a good person that positively impacts the people around him, what bigger compliment can you give someone?”

Fellow Poly grad Justin Lewis, now playing at Marquette, was always inspired by his teammate.

“Ian had an energy that just lifts up a room, always positive. He was never caught up in himself and always was thinking of others. He was just a good person to be around,” he said.

On Friday and over the weekend, many of Mr. Wallace’s friends and teammates stopped by the family’s home to provide support share stories. One in particular, about how a friend met him in middle school, warmed Ronald Wallace’s heart.

“People were making fun of him and Ian stuck up for him and told him nobody is ever going to make fun of you again. And then the next day, Ian came to school and gave the kid his sneakers and says, ‘I got you, Brother,’” the elder Mr. Wallace said.

“I knew a lot of his friends, but hearing those type of stories — that was his personality and everyone felt as though they were his best friend.”

There will be a viewing Friday from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Wylie Funeral Home at 701 N. Mount St. On Saturday, there will be a wake at 10 a.m. and a funeral at 10:30 a.m. at Empowerment Temple AME Church at 4217 Primrose Ave.

In addition to his parents, Mr. Wallace is survived by two older brothers, Ryan and Kyron, both of Baltimore.

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