Let’s take a look back at arguably the most significant commitment in Kentucky sports history (certainly in the John Calipari era), the one that laid the groundwork for every 5-star player to come through Lexington since: everyone’s favorite lightning quick, dancing point guard, John Wall.
Wall is a North Carolina boy, which was reflected in his list of potential schools, with Duke and NC State getting plenty of chatter. He also considered Miami and Kansas, filling out the classic number one player contenders of UK, Duke, and KU.
Of course, it’s pretty clear why they all wanted him.
Wall’s commitment was greeted with less cheers and applause than we’ve gotten used to over the years; nowadays we expect a chorus of undercover UK fans to be present for every commit. But his decision set a precedent: players could start building their brand early on by making sure the whole world saw and heard their choice to play for a high profile school.
The gym may have been quiet, but the BBN was buzzing. This was step one of Coach Cal fulfilling his promise of recruiting the best players, and eventually, making Kentucky the “gold standard” of college hoops.
Complain if you like about one and done rule, and a lot of you will, but John Wall’s commitment and single year at UK probably had as much long term impact on the program as anyone else’s three or four years.
Wall averaged 34.8 minutes per game, a huge number for freshmen at the time (another precedent he helped set). In those minutes, he averaged 16.6 points and 6.5 assists, good enough to earn SEC Player of the Year, SEC Tournament MVP, and AP 1st Team All-American honors.
I won’t even go into the eventual loss to West Virginia, because if you’re anything like me, that one still stings. The 2009-2010 team had more than enough talent to win the national title, but that can be said for countless teams in the history of basketball. The crucial outcome of that season was the Kentucky basketball was cool again. UK was the go-to destination not just for big name high school stars, but also for ESPN and CBS, and every other media outlet that wanted to get in on the newest trend in basketball.
So thanks to John Wall, for without him, we may have never gotten to see The Brow, or The Twins, or Big KAT suit up in Kentucky blue.