If you cover Kentucky basketball in any meaningful way, you are use to seeing some circuses. The day Billy Clyde was fired, Calipari was hired, Midnight Madness last year, the scene in Syracuse for the NCAA regional, etc all are examples of media swarms that attack a given moment and create a spectacle apart from the action on the court. But yesterday in Vegas, I saw my first media circus on the NBA level with the debut of John Wall. These summer league games are being held in a 3,000 person gym that is smaller than many high schools and has been 60-70 percent packed for most games. But when Wall took the court, not a seat could be found. The stands were packed, not just with NBA fans, but with about 200 UK fans and a host of NBA types that came just to see the show. Rex Chapman, Patrick Ewing, John Thompson, Mark Cuban, Bill Cartwright, Mike Dan’toni, Marcus Camby and others were sitting amongst the crowd just to see the Wall show. And they werent disappointed, Wall had 24 points, 8 assists and 7 turnovers….all in all, a John Wall type game that we saw in college, minus a few Calipari yells and open court breakaway dunks. Below are a few notes from the evening and a the rest of the Summer League over the last two days:
— Universally, everyone talks about what a class act Wall is at such a young age. The media throng after the game was large, but not UK large. Even though there were 30-40 reporters surrounding him, he gave a “this is nothing” shrug when asked about the attention, reminding the NBA reporters that there is a lot of attention around Kentucky as well. He still answers questions with the “yes sir, no sir” mentality that we saw in Lexington and just like in college, is respectful to all he encounters. After the game, the NBA promised that Wall would be available for 15 minutes for autographs in the lobby…instead he stayed an hour, signing for every last person in line and waving off the NBA guys when they told him he could leave.
— I got a minute to talk to Wall about Kentucky and whether he missed it. In the post-game press interview he said, “yeah I do. Kentucky prepared me for everything and I feel like I am such a better player now than I was when I got there.” He then commented on the UK fans in the crowd and said, “I knew they would be here. They follow you everywhere and just give you full support.” Then as I walked away to leave for the night, he tapped me on the shoulder and said, “tell Kentucky fans they are the best and I wont forget them.” I said I would and he then said he would be reading KSR to see “how the new boys do”.
— I got to sit down for a 20 minute interview with Patrick Patterson today, where we went over his time at Kentucky and his relationship with the various coaches and fans. It will be available on video later in the week, but Patterson admitted he already misses Kentucky. He talked about the fans and how great they were to him. He talked extensively about the Billy Clyde era and his feelings about Gillispie as a coach and their relationship. He gave his favorite rival (Tennessee), his favorite Demarcus Cousins story (when he was dunked on at Georgia), his favorite restaurant in Lexington (Cheddars) and whether he actually ate that booger versus North Carolina. It was a great interview and one I look forward to people getting to see.
— The UK players have been supporting each other during their games. John Wall is here to see Demarcus Cousins in his opening game, Patterson is coming tonight to see Wall vs Bledsoe and all say they watched Orton in Orlando. The bond between the guys is real and it has carried over to the next level.
I will have more from Vegas later tonight and a lot when I get back to Louisville on Wednesday….make sure and watch Wall vs Bledsoe at 10 pm if you can. And until then, Boogie giving Sosa a nice look: