FORMER US college basketballer Eric Wallace has joined North Melbourne as an international rookie.
Wallace, 196cm and 102kg, first caught the Kangaroos' attention when he was one of 10 international athletes to test at October's NAB AFL Draft Combine, recording an 80cm standing vertical jump (in the top 3 per cent of results) and a 2.90 second 20m sprint.
Wallace started a 10-day trial with the Kangaroos last week, with the Roos announcing his signing at Aegis Park on Thursday.
North coach Brad Scott said Wallace's work ethic had convinced the Roos to give him a chance.
"Eric has come out from North Carolina and really impressed us with his attitude over the last 10 days, so we're really pleased to announced his signing," Scott said.
"When Eric came out to the AFL combine he really impressed with his athleticism… the athletic feats that he shows on the basketball court we really think a lot of those traits can transfer onto the footy field.
"But really the last 10 days has been more about getting to know Eric the person, watching him train and watching him apply himself.
"Because the bottom line is Eric knows he's got a long way to go, he's got a lot of work to do, so we need to make sure that we've got a person who's prepared to do that work and Eric is certainly driven and he's really keen to make a success of this."
Wallace, who turned 24 last Thursday, was optimistic about his chances of eventually graduating to North's senior list and playing an AFL game.
"I'm very confident in myself. Like coach says, I've got a long way to go," Wallace said.
"It's the first step. I'm just grateful for the opportunity to have the chance to work towards the goal of being senior listed and help(ing) the team out."
Wallace will play with North Ballarat in 2013.
Wallace said his desire to play AFL had been sparked by watching the Sydney Swans claim this year's premiership.
"It really stuck with me when I went home and [I] wanted to be a part of it," Wallace said. "I'd fallen in love with AFL by then."
Scott said the improvement in Wallace's skills over his trial with North had been "extraordinary", while he had already made a big impression on his new teammates, who roundly applauded the news that the man they've dubbed 'The Beast' and 'Big E' would be a permanent fixture at Aegis Park.
Scott said Wallace's biggest challenge would be improving his endurance to AFL standards. So he would have been pleased to hear Wallace say he would be running whenever he could when he returned home to North Carolina for two weeks over the Christmas break.
And it was hard not to get excited when Wallace crossed his former sport with his current one, effortlessly dunking a football on Aegis Park's basketball court for the benefit of the photographers present.
"It's really exciting for us to see just how far we can take Eric," Scott said.
"It's going to be a long road for him there's no doubt, but we certainly think that based on what he's shown so far it's worth trying," Scott said.