Ed. Note: Jason Wallace and his brother Brandon were known as J-Wal and SOL (Servant of the Lord) during their years as the Divine Soldiers. The Divine Soldiers were a Christian Hip Hop group that performed from 1999-2010 throughout the Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York area. Highly accomplished basketball players and family men, they have had a tremendous impact on our area and have been long time friends and ministry partners of TEAM JAM.
JS – Describe your family and how you grew up?
JW – I grew up in Phoenix, AZ, in a typical working class family. I’m the oldest of four children. I have two brothers and a sister. I am biracial. My father is white and my mother is black. At times, I experienced some pretty tough times and struggles growing up. But I wouldn’t change the adversity I faced, because it made me a better man and helps me appreciate every day the blessings God has given me.
JS - What High School did you attend in Akron and tell us about your athletic career?
JW – The first high school I attended was Akron Central-Hower. I played football my freshman year in Arizona. But having grown 6 inches in the summer before 9th grade, I was already thinking more about basketball. So, instead of playing football, I ran cross country in the fall to get in shape for basketball.
I played JV and Varsity basketball all through tenth grade and varsity by the end of the year. By my junior year, I was starting varsity. Coach Siegfrieth (legendary hall of fame coach), thought I had a lot of potential, but the basketball and school environment was very chaotic at Central. So, I ended up transferring to St.V-St.Mary High School (Pre-LeBron).
JS - What kind of personal accomplishments did you achieve your senior year?
JW - I was recognized as one of the top players in Akron. My name was in the paper a lot my senior year. I was the leading scorer and rebounder of my team and led them to the district championships. However, I also accomplished having a terrible attitude. I wasn’t walking with the Lord then and things were crazy at home. I would say I do regret how I carried myself my senior year. Although, I did turn it around towards the end of the year.
JS - Do you remember your personal stats?
JW – I averaged a about 18 ppg and 8 rebs.
JS – How did you find a college to attend? Why did you decide on Nyack?
JW – I played AAU basketball for Vet Frazier (before he coached at C-Hower). That gave me some exposure and an organization called College Prospects discovered me. The profile that they put together on me got Nyack Head Coach Dan Bailey’s attention. Coach Bailey called me and invited me out to New York for a visit. Coach is still there, but as a consultant now.
I had some opportunities to go to some Junior Colleges and a few bigger universities. I really didn’t want to go to New York and had no interest in going to a small school. But I took the visit anyway and figured a weekend in NYC would be a nice getaway. If I decided to go there and “grace them with my presence”, then at least I would be kind of a big fish in a small pond. But when I scrimmaged with the players, I actually played some of the worst basketball of my life. But even though I didn’t play well, Coach Bailey brought me up to his office and explained how good everyone in the gym was, so I understood why I was struggling. Then he told me that he saw potential in me and was still interested in me. That’s what really made me more interested in him and the school. I had a lot of peace that it was the right decision for me.
JS – Looking back, how was it the right decision?
JW – I got more than an education and basketball at Nyack. It’s where I met my wife, where I really surrendered my life to Christ and understood Him and what following him meant. It’s where we started our family. (Nyack is a Christian college).
I had asked Christ to be my Savior when I was 6 yrs. old at a Vacation Bible School at a church in Phoenix, AZ. My parents came from Catholic homes and at the time wanted nothing to do with God or religion. However, I am proud to say that my whole family is saved today.
Choosing Nyack helped me understand what I had done as a child and blessed me with my family. My wife and I got engaged our freshman year at Nyack, got married during the summer before my sophomore year and then a little over a year later our first child Caleb was born. We now have three children Mikaela, Micah, and Cameron.
JS – Tell me about your college basketball career?
JW – For me, it was a roller coaster ride of emotion. I have come to realize now that I suffer from depression. I had many good days and some not so good days. I wish I understood myself the way I do now. But those experiences have helped me witness to others who also struggle with depression.
Our teams during my first two years were our best team. We were 26-6 ranked 10th in the nation and qualified for the National Tournament (lost in the second round). I was injured that year though. My sophomore year we were 24-7, and made it to the National Quarterfinals.
By my senior year I started every game. I was recognized as national player of the week and hit some pretty big shots. I also got to play four years with my good friend Danny Rollins (Ed. note: Rollins is in the Nyack Hall of Fame). He was an outstanding scorer and competitor.
My wife and I loved Nyack, but it got too expensive for me to finish college with a family. So we moved back to Ohio. (Since then Jason has finished his degree at Malone U. in Business Administration in 2011).
JS -Tell us about how the Divine Soldiers Hip Hop ministry started?
JW - After being at NYACK, and in Ohio, looking for job, a buddy got me to go to a Network Marketing program with Quest. But instead of being interested in the company, it gave me the desire to do the same thing with music and the gospel.
I couldn’t sing, so in order to do that I needed to rap. I asked my brother Brandon if he wanted to join me but he wasn’t a gifted musician either, so he wasn’t too interested. He was willing to pray about it though. Soon after that, while driving his truck, God inspired some lyrics for an entire song in his mind that caused him to pull over and write it out. After that, we started putting music together and then needed people to share it with.
JS – Sum up the highlights of the Divine Soldiers ministry and what was accomplished?
JW – The ministry lasted from about 1999-2010. We averaged doing around 100 concerts a year, probably over 1,100 events total. We were an evangelistic ministry, so we saw a little over 3000 young people express a desire to follow Christ as their Savior. But there were a lot of other ways we were able to counsel or make an impact on people as well.
We were also recognized by Christian Contemporary Magazine as one of the top 20 unsigned artists in the country.
JS – What were some of the places that you performed?
JW - The ones I remember most were probably playing at the Alive Festival when we opened for Third Day and the Fest in Cleveland when we opened for Michael W. Smith. We also played the Cornerstone Festival in Illinois and the Holy Hip Hop Awards in Atlanta (opening for Canton Jones). We met some great people. Too many to name. Divine Soldiers is a proud part of my spiritual legacy.
JS – What are some other ways you serve the community?
JW – Just trying to continue to give back. I currently help lead worship at my church. Also, I coach middle school boys’ basketball for Akron Coventry and for Air Attack. (Varsity Athletic Club – Brian Kryznowek) www.varsityac.com
JS – What advice do you have for young people that you work with?
JW - Live your life so that you don’t have any regrets. Use your talents and gifts for God and then you won’t have any regrets about what you’ve done or wishing you had done it differently.
I did not make it to the NBA or sold millions of records with The Divine Soldiers. I did not reach heights of fame. But the lives impacted and changed were the greatest reward. And, I am happy and content with my life. God has blessed me with a wife and family and closer relationship with Him. That is worth more than all the money in the world.