Semiahmoo Totems guard Tara Wallack has committed to play for Washington State University starting in the fall of 2021. (Vancouver Sports Pictures)

Semiahmoo hoops star commits to Washington State

Tara Wallack is third member of Totems senior girls basketball team to agree to NCAA deal

A third member of Semiahmoo Secondary’s powerhouse senior girls basketball team is headed to the NCAA.

Last week, Tara Wallack, who is just wrapping up her Grade 11 year at the South Surrey school, announced that she’ll play for the Washington State Cougars beginning in the fall of 2021.

Wallack, a six-foot-one guard, can’t officially sign on the dotted line until the NCAA’s official signing period later this year, but her verbal commitment was announced on social media by her club team, BC United on Saturday – and a congratulatory message soon followed from her coach at Semiahmoo Secondary, Allison McNeill.

Wallack is the third current member of the Totems senior girls squad to commit to an NCAA Div. 1 program this spring. In late March, guard Deja Lee committed to the University of California Irvine, and in April, Izzy Forsyth verbally committed to the University of California San Diego.

• READ ALSO: Pair of Semiahmoo basketball stars with with NCAA schools

• READ ALSO: Totems win back-to-back provincial championships

“Tara took a little bit longer than the other two girls to decide. I think she was really processing it all, and I think she did a great job. I think all three did great jobs of trying to find schools that were the right fit for them,” McNeill told Peace Arch News Monday.

Wallack – who was the most valuable player at last February’s BC Senior Girls 4A Basketball Championships – said part of the reason for holding off on a decision was to see if COVID-19 travel restrictions would ease up and allow her to travel to the U.S. Wallack, Lee and Forsyth all made separate recruiting trips down the west coast in January, just weeks before such trips were made impossible due to the pandemic, and while that trip was integral to Lee and Forsyth’s decisions, Wallack has not yet made an in-person visit to Washington State University’s Pullman, Wash. campus.

“I had offers from two schools – one I’d visited and then (Washington State), which I hadn’t,” she said. “I tried to wait, but then it became clear that (travel) wasn’t going to open up anytime soon, and I didn’t want to wait all summer.”

Instead, Wallack took a virtual tour of the school, did her own research online and had meetings with coaches, players and other team staff via video-conference.

“A lot of Zoom calls,” she said.

Wallack said the lure of playing in the prestigious Pac-12 Conference is what ultimately led her to choose WSU.

“The Pac-12 has always been my dream – I want to play against the best,” she said.

Semiahmoo has won the last two provincial championships, in 2019 at the triple-A level – which was the highest in the province at the time – and last year at the 4A level, once the tiers were revamped.

• READ ALSO: Hall-0f-fame hoops coach ‘just wants to help’

McNeill, a longtime coach at Simon Fraser University as well as with Canada’s national women’s team, could not remember a B.C. high-school team in recent years with three NCAA Div. 1-committed players on it. That number jumps to four if you include Faith Dut, who helped lead the Totems to their 2019 title before graduating and moving on to the University of Florida.

“It’s quite shocking, when you think about it,” said McNeill, looking back on her team’s 2019 starting lineup that included four future NCAA players.

“I don’t think there are any other schools (with that many). I know Brookswood had two, back when Izzy’s sister, Louise, and Aislinn Koenig, both went to division-one schools, but I’m not sure (about) three.”

All three NCAA-bound Totems have benefited from playing with each other for years, McNeill added.

“They all push each other,” she said.

By the end of their senior seasons next spring, McNeill said the team could have even more university-bound players, if some decide to play in Canada.

“I’m hoping we get a couple more who decide they want to keep playing, too, but we’ll see. That’s up to them,” she said.

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