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A decade later, John Wall’s impact on Kentucky only continues to grow

[Editor’s Note: This story was originally written and published on Feb. 23, 2020, following the Kentucky vs. Florida basketball game inside Rupp Arena. It has been reposted today in honor of John Wall’s birthday].

John Wall has been making a continuous impact on the University of Kentucky basketball program since the moment he arrived on campus. It began when he did “the” dance, announcing the return of a certain “coolness factor” that had been lacking with the program under former Coach Billy Gillispie. It continued when he made the decision to return to school and keep working on his degree years after being drafted into the NBA, silencing the one-and-done nay-sayers and re-emphasizing the concept of a “student-athlete,” despite the money he’s earning in the league.

It happened again on Saturday night, when he returned to campus as a spectator for the Kentucky vs. Florida game. Even though he was really only there to watch the game, raise his arms in the air like a ‘Y’ and maybe take a few pictures, he did much more than that, like he always seems to do.

He was an active cheerleader for Kentucky throughout the entirety of the game, especially when Immanuel Quickley drained three consecutive three-point shots. Although he was sitting courtside, he was up out of his chair, fully invested in the game, as seen in this picture captured by Cats Illustrated’s Jeff Drummond.

For players like Quickley himself, it was almost unbelievable.

“I actually did see something on Twitter of him cheering for me. I actually got to see a video of him,” Quickley said shortly after the game. “It’s always cool to see John come back. He’s one of the best players to ever come through here. A great leader on and off the floor. It was great to see him.”

Quickley has repeatedly credited Wall with being one of the reasons behind his own interest in pursuing a career at Kentucky. When Wall had his own break out at Kentucky a full decade ago, a much-younger Quickley took notice.

“Definitely one of the reasons why I committed here. He basically started all of this stuff,” Quickley told reporters. “All the quote-unquote one-and-done stuff, all the “best point guards” and stuff like that… John Wall is John Wall — you don’t gotta say too much about that.”

Wall also met with the team after the game to offer a little perspective from someone a few years removed from the college scene: just listen to your coach.

“Just keep fighting, keep listening to Coach Cal. Go out there and do what he says and execute to a T,” Tyrese Maxey said.

“He said this team will go as far as Nick [Richards] takes us and as far as the guards take us,” Quickley added. “So, really, just taking that to heart. We want to get back to work and keep working harder and stuff like that. Just try to get ready for a run in March.”

Quickley showed off a career-high night in front of Wall, but so has Maxey. If you can reach all the way back to November, you’ll remember John Wall was actually in attendance for Kentucky’s very first game of the season, when Maxey scored 26 points of his own over Michigan State.

“Yeah, we met him in Madison Square Garden, too,” Maxey said after the Florida game. “But he just came in and talked, gave us some words of encouragement. Same old, same old.”

Same old, same old? That’s John Wall you’re talking about, sir.

Actually, it isn’t. Because to these guys – players, especially guards, who also have the opportunity to suit up for the blue and white – John Wall is more than a great point guard or even a legendary figure in the Bluegrass. He’s held a constant presence around them and the program, dating all the way back to before they were even officially Wildcats themselves. They’ve gotten used to his impact.

These pictures were taken at a USA Basketball summer minicamp back in 2018. Maxey was still just a UK commit, but Wall (and DeMarcus Cousins) made him feel like part of the family already.

tyresemaxey | Ig

Could Wall have worked more of his magic Saturday night?

Another potential Kentucky guard was in the building for the UK vs. UF game: Kennedy Chandler, a five-star recruit for the 2021 class, and the only point guard who currently holds an official scholarship offer from Coach Calipari. He, too, was inside Rupp Arena (in the front row, I might add) when Wall received a roaring standing ovation from the sold-out Rupp Arena. He, too, was there to witness the “John Wall dance cam” that took over the arena during the game.

He saw the impact Wall still has on more than 20,000 of his biggest fans.

And after the game? Wall didn’t immediately jump on a jet and fly back to Washington D.C. or some other “exotic” location for a few extra days off before getting back to work rehabbing his left heel injury.

No, he stayed on campus. In fact, he signed autographs and took pictures with current UK students all night. He potentially, maybe, possibly even served a few of his signature drinks (appropriately named after John Wall himself) inside a campus bar as a guest bartender (which, when you think about it, is pretty iconic).

Remember that “certain coolness” factor I talked about at the beginning? Yeah, he’s still got it.

For Immanuel Quickley, scoring 26 points in front of someone who has played a pivotal role in his college career, Saturday night was a major check off from the bucket list. In his own words, “it doesn’t get no better than that.”

As for the rest of us, I’d say the sentiment is pretty much the same. For John Wall, who has fought injury after injury in the NBA, to continue to come back and play a crucial role and serve as a present mentor for the next generation of Kentucky’s greats is remarkable. It’s the reason why John Wall still has that much of an impact on the BBN, even a full decade after his team failed to qualify for a Final Four. His impact was bigger than basketball then, and it still is today.

And even now, it’s still growing.

Article written by Maggie Davis

I love sports, podcasts, long walks on the beach and Twitter (@MaggieDavisKSR)

10 Comments for A decade later, John Wall’s impact on Kentucky only continues to grow

  1. kyle heavy
    9:49 pm February 23, 2020 Permalink

    I’ve stated it several times but will state it again: Best writer on KSR.

  2. gasman01
    7:35 am February 24, 2020 Permalink

    Great article, Maggie!!

  3. spincr4hire
    8:52 am February 24, 2020 Permalink

    Lunardi drops us from a 3 to a 4 seed this week. What a moron.

  4. KentuckyDad
    11:15 am February 24, 2020 Permalink

    I love the fact that he hung out in town, signed autographs, and served up beverages after the game. I think it’s not only a testament to his character, but it also shows how much these guys appreciate our commitment as fans to the program.

    We sell out Rupp. We travel like no other fan base. Becoming a part of BBN is definitely a factor in a kid’s decision to play for UK. Thanks for joining us back in the day, John!

    • BowdenQB4ever
      4:07 pm September 6, 2020 Permalink

      I think it’s really interesting to see the contrast in the players from early in the cal era and now. John and Boogie legitimately loved and relished the scale of UK basketball and it seemed to hurt them when they left early. They were pro ready guys built to come in and take over. As we’ve stopped getting that level of recruit, it seems like the kids we get take it for granted or shy away from the spotlight. They can’t wait to leave, even if it means hopping in a G league bus. Brooks comments on Rupp were disrespectful, but what really hurt is that he seemed to have no interest in learning anything about the men who built the program he benefits from before slandering them.

  5. Miller45
    2:04 pm February 24, 2020 Permalink

    I wish he could get out of Washington

  6. mashman 93
    3:43 pm September 6, 2020 Permalink

    Rest In Peace Dwight Andersen. Dwight(the blur) Andersen, John Wall, and D’Aaron Fox are fastest players with ball in hand that I have ever seen at Kentucky man. Will never forget the game against Notre Dame his freshmen year and how nasty Digger Phelps was after the game and yes UK won.

  7. Condo1122
    4:02 pm September 6, 2020 Permalink

    A decade ago, hard to believe. Makes me feel old.