Big Ben visits Brookfield

Wallace gives candid Q-and-A with 4th graders


In 2004, Dr. Devang Doshi flew from Iowa to see Ben Wallace and the Pistons defeat the Lakers in the NBA Finals.

Last week, Dr. Doshi’s son, Neal, didn’t have to go anywhere. Ben Wallace came to him.

The Pistons center visited Neal, 10, and his sister, Riya, 8, at their school, Brookfield Academy in West Bloomfield, last week after Neal won the “Bring a Pistons' Player to School Day” contest on Pistons.com.

Wallace conducted a Q-and-A with the students and teachers, which gave Neal the chance to ask Wallace when he started to believe the Pistons would upset the Lakers for the 2004 NBA title.

“There was never a doubt in my mind whether we were going to win or not,” Wallace said. “I was disappointed in the media and everybody because they already had wrote us off before they gave us a chance. That actually made it a little more sweet for us.”

Another student asked Wallace to recall his toughest game. The answer didn’t have anything to do with the Lakers, or his second trip to the Finals in 2005. It was his first high school varsity game in White Hall, Ala.

“I was excited, I was nervous, I had my whole family there,” he said. “My brothers and sisters were encouraging me on one hand to do well but if I didn’t have a good game they would see me when I got home.”

Wallace spent a lot of time talking about family, revealing that “Big Ben” is actually the 10th of 11 children and has seven older brothers. His mother still cooks for him everyday.

“Since I’m from the South, anything that’s home cooked, I’m down for,” he said. “She spoils me.”

Naturally, Wallace encouraged the students to work hard in school. When asked his favorite subject besides physical education, Wallace said math.

Ben Wallace spent over an hour speaking with the students at Brookfield Academy.
Ryan Pretzer (Pistons Photo)
“Education is something that’s going to carry you throughout the rest of your life,” he said. “Basketball, eventually I’m going to have to retire one day. Players are going to come in and take my job. But education, I’ll always have my education.”

Wallace’s candor surprised even the Brookfield staff, including principal Kelly Randazzo.

“He’s a true role model to our students,” Randazzo said. “He works hard, he comes from humble beginnings, he appreciates what he has now, he appreciates the fans that he has, and he takes time out for them and we really appreciate that.”

Though it’s not uncommon for him to take his son Bryce, 6, to school in the morning, Wallace understands what a rare opportunity this is for other children every time he walks into a classroom. He signed autographs for everyone in Neal and Riya’s class, leaving an autographed card behind for a sick classmate.

“I know what it means to see the kids,” he said. “Ordinarily they probably only see you on TV. (This) gives them an opportunity to see that you’re real.”

It’s an opportunity Dr. Doshi probably didn’t think Neal and Riya would have after Wallace left the Pistons in 2006. Dr. Doshi flew back to Michigan to catch a game of the 2004 Finals while he completed his medical training at the University of Iowa.

Now the director of allergy and immunology at Beaumont Children’s Hospital in Royal Oak, Dr. Doshi is a Pistons season-ticket holder.

“A few minutes of his time is going to leave a lifelong impression on these kids, and to have that kind of opportunity I didn’t want to miss it,” said Dr. Doshi, camera in hand. “You can’t replicate that with anything.”

Dr. Doshi got a kick out of learning what Wallace could bench press – 460 pounds at his peak – but was more thrilled with the message he had for the class.

“No matter what profession we’re in we always try to be positive role models for kids and people like Ben Wallace have the unique opportunity of capturing these children’s attention in ways we could only dream of doing,” Dr. Doshi said.

“For him to be such a positive impact and to give them some sort of inspiration, telling them to stay in school, it’s amazing.”