John Wall is headed to the UK Athletics Hall of Fame, and there are few people happier about that than John Calipari. Wall was Calipari’s first mega-recruit at Kentucky, and, this morning on KSR, Cal said he hopes Wall will be the first of many one-and-done players in the UK Hall of Fame because he’s the perfect example of the program’s players first philosophy.
“To do that for him is a big deal and hopefully starts a path for these players who have come here and call this place home. And know they’re family. And stay in touch with all of us and come back for events. …This thing here, we’re about these kids, which means they’re about each other which means they’re about us too. He was the epitome, the first guy out of the gate.”
Calipari recalled the time Wall came into his office and said they had to find a way to boost Eric Bledsoe’s confidence because Bledsoe didn’t think he would make it in the NBA. Cal said Wall’s concern for his teammates was the perfect example of how his players drag each other to success.
“I just hope there’s a trail of guys because John was one of those that — at some point in the season, I called him in and we talked and he told me Eric Bledsoe didn’t think he was an NBA player and we had to help him. That came from John. I sat him down and said, are you kidding me? He said no. I said, well I’ve got that. Here’s what I’m going to tell you John: I don’t want you to leave here alone. You take everybody with you. Don’t do this just for you. Take everybody with you. I didn’t expect him to take four other guys with him, but he did. And he played the best through the year, really showing leadership for a young kid who hadn’t been thrust into that situation.”
As time goes by, it becomes more and more clear that the 2009-10 team changed the sport of college basketball, which Calipari said makes Wall’s honor especially fitting.
“He set the tone of where college basketball was going. Not just Kentucky, but where college basketball was going. I know everyone was mad at me — and some of them are still mad. Kids should stay four years and this is not how they should be –but times are a changing. And he was the one who led the charge and showed us we can be about the players and still do fine.”
Per UK rules, once Wall is inducted into the Hall of Fame in September, he will have to wait five more years until his jersey can be considered for retirement; for critics of the one-and-done method, that could be a hard pill to swallow, but given how Wall helped Kentucky climb back up to college basketball’s throne and his impact on the sport, it seems like a no-brainer to me.