A Brian Wallack triple-double for the UBC Thunderbirds could include big numbers in the points, rebounds and TikTok views columns.
Wallack is a fifth-year senior forward for the Canada West men’s basketball program, and he plays his final regular season games with the squad Friday and Saturday when UBC hosts the Calgary Dinos at War Memorial Gymnasium. UBC (13-5) sits fifth in the 17-team loop. The top 12 teams make the playoffs, which run Feb. 21-25 at the University of Manitoba. The top four teams get a first-round bye.
Wallack has an online fanbase that’s bound to be keeping track of all this.
He’s a physical force on the basketball court, a 6-foot-7, 230 pounder who goes into the weekend fourth in Canada West in scoring (19.4 points per game) and rebounding (9.5 per game). He does strength and conditioning coaching on the side and started posting workouts on TikTok regularly last summer. He is putting up more basketball related content now and it’s all flourished to the point that his channel has 8.2 million likes and over 178,000 followers.
A post from Christmas of Wallack and younger sister Tara Wallack — who’s a 6-foot-2 junior guard with the Washington State Cougars — dribbling in unison and then firing off jumpers has over 16.3 million views.
“It’s pretty ridiculous, eh?” said Wallack, 24, who played high school ball with Surrey’s Semiahmoo Thunderbirds. “One thing I always try to compare to it is War Memorial. It holds 2,500 to 3,000 people. There are nights that number of people are watching us in a basketball game. Sixteen million? I can’t even fathom that. I try to think about what that would be in the stands.
“It’s turned into something a lot bigger than I ever thought it would be. We travel to different cities to play and I’ll be at the free-throw line and people are heckling me about my TikToks. It makes me laugh.
“It’s funny to me. I never expected this.”
Wallack has scaled back how much he’s posting as the season has played out. He’s got a lot going on. He’s wrapping up his master’s degree in kinesiology and says he could himself as a researcher whenever he’s done with basketball.
When basketball is finished for him remains to be decided. He wants to play pro next season and had a taste of that last summer, when he was a second-round CEBL U Sports Draft selection of the Vancouver Bandits. He broke his finger in training camp and never got into a game with the Langley Events Centre squad, although he was around the team all season.
Regardless, he sounds like he’s going to keep the TikTok going. He’s been successful enough that he’s landed sponsorship deals, most notably with Guru Energy Drink and Save-On-Foods.
“I’m just going to see what comes of it and see what connections I can build,” Wallack said. “That’s the thing about social media — you can meet so many people online, both good and bad. Obviously there are a lot good people out there who can help you find opportunities and build new connections and network. If I can do that through this, I’ll keep doing it.”
His most pressing goal athletically is playing a part in UBC extending their season as long as possible. He’s been with the program for seven years. He redshirted his first year, sat idle with everyone across the country in the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown season and has played the past five campaigns since.
He’s come a long way on the court. He played six minutes a game and averaged 2.5 points and 1.7 rebounds in that first year on the active roster in 2018-19. He played 27 minutes a game last year and averaged 15.8 points and 7.7 rebounds, and he’s playing 29 minutes per game this year going into weekend.
“I lie awake at night thinking about how I have to maximize these next couple of weeks because as soon as this season is over I won’t be able to come back to it,” he said.
He’s quick to praise longtime UBC coach Kevin Hanson, calling him the “greatest mentor.” He talks up how Hanson is a believer in “human connection and building relationships” and how Hanson’s goals include wanting to stay in contact with his players after they’ve graduated, then be invited to their weddings.
Hanson hasn’t taken a pass on zinging him about social media, though.
“I’ll make the occasional TikTok about eating. Obviously I’m a big guy,” Wallack said. “I made a TikTok about how I’ll eat 12 eggs in one sitting. I’ll do that when I’m really hungry. There was a week’s work of practice where every day Kevin was like ‘Brian, you get your 12 eggs in?’ I was like ‘This is the fourth straight day you’ve said that. It was funny the first day.’”
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