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Wallace making way in community

New Celtic reaches out at local school

By Frank Dell’Apa
Globe Staff / September 23, 2009

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Talbot Avenue in Dorchester is off the beaten track for most celebrities and professional athletes. But Rasheed Wallace did not have much difficulty finding his way to the Joseph Lee School yesterday.

“I actually have in-laws right around the corner,’’ Wallace said. “That’s pretty much the only time I’ve come down here to the city. I’ve been here. When I was playing on other teams, I would go over to their house.’’

But this was the first time Wallace has made a public appearance in Boston as a member of the Celtics. And before participating in a reading event with students, Wallace made sure he was in the right place.

“How many of you are Celtics fans?’’ Wallace asked.

All 20 youngsters raised their hands.

“That’s good,’’ Wallace said.

Wallace then talked about the latest movies he has watched with his four children.

Then it was time for Wallace to recite from “Make Way for Ducklings.’’

Wallace, who signed a three-year contract with the Celtics, has been involved in similar reading activities in other cities.

“I’ve been doing it pretty much my whole career, with and without the NBA,’’ Wallace said. “It’s nothing new. It’s actually fun for me, to interact with kids - that’s my Achilles’ heel. I’m real big on kids and doing things with them.

“I know how it is. Every kid likes to be read to, or just even have an adult play with them, no matter if it’s little girls with a tea party or boys playing in the dirt, it’s all part of being a kid. It’s something we all went through.

“My wife and I, we do it sometimes. I’m there with my own kids sometimes. It’s our focus. It’s somewhat important because I wanted to continue what I did in Detroit and Portland, what I do in Philadelphia, North Carolina, and Washington, when I was there with the Bullets many moons ago.

“It’s something good, it’s something the kids look forward to, to have a professional athlete - no matter if it’s football, basketball, baseball - come to their school or their neighborhood and interact with them.’’

Wallace has been training with the Celtics in Waltham. But on this day, he was going for the full immersion tour of Boston, joining the youngsters on a Duck Boat ride.

“I don’t know too much about the city, I don’t know the best restaurants and all that stuff yet,’’ Wallace said. “But I’m pretty sure the guys on the team will tell me about that.

“I have no complaints. Everyone here has treated me with open arms. It’s been a good experience, and as far as the guys in the locker room, we can’t wait to get started.’’

Wallace is eager to plug into the local sports scene. He passed a quick quiz regarding the number of local professional teams.

“Definitely, guys are huge Pats fans, huge Red Sox fans,’’ Wallace said. “They support their teams well up here and that’s what a city should do. You have a whole lot of professional teams - there’s five up here - and they’re behind them 100 percent and that’s good. That’s what a community, a city, needs.’’

Wallace was recruited by a Celtic delegation of Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, plus president of basketball operations Danny Ainge and owner Wyc Grousbeck, who visited him in suburban Detroit in June. Wallace planned to take several days to consider, but soon cancelled meetings with other teams and committed to the Celtics. So far, Wallace seems more than content with his decision.

“With the caliber of guys on the team,’’ Wallace said, “with Paul, Kevin, Ray, Big Baby [Glen Davis], a whole lot of guys, it’s going to be fun. We’re looking forward to it. We’re pretty much tired of beating up on each other and we’re looking forward to that first [exhibition] game against Houston [Oct. 7].

“The younger guys are ready, they’re in the gym working hard every day, and it’s going to work out for us, in my opinion.’’

Frank Dell’Apa can be reached at f_dellapa@globe.com.

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