The Kentucky basketball program nearly missed on arguably its biggest superstar talent of the John Calipari era.
In an interview with Evan Daniels of 247Sports, former Kentucky star John Wall said he would have likely ended up committing to Miami (FL) if Calipari had moved forward with signing former five-star guard Xavier Henry.
In the interview, Wall said he was interested in following Calipari to Lexington, adding that he had already visited Kentucky under Billy Gillispie and loved the school.
“He called me and told me he was about to change and I was like, ‘That’s fine, I like Kentucky anyway, I loved everything about their fanbase when I took a visit there,’” Wall told Daniels. “I took a visit there when Billy Gillispie was there, I loved everything about it. I just didn’t want to play with coach Gillispie so I’m like, ‘I’m going to go play at Memphis where Cal is.’ And he called me and I was like, ‘perfect, I don’t even have to take a visit, I already know the atmosphere, I already know how it goes.’”
After talking with Calipari, Wall was selected to play in the Nike Hoop Summit alongside DeMarcus Cousins and Xavier Henry, a one-time Memphis commit under Cal.
While he loved playing with Cousins, Wall felt he simply couldn’t play with Henry if the five-star guard followed Calipari to Kentucky.
“I was playing with Xavier [Henry] and Xavier was a talented player but he was just shooting the ball so much, so mad he wasn’t getting the ball, I called Cal up and was like, ‘‘Cal when you switch to Kentucky, if he’s coming, I promise I won’t go,’” Wall told 247Sports. “I told him that straight up. I told him I can’t go because I was like me, DeMarcus, E-Bled [Eric Bledsoe] and all of these guys are about to sacrifice and he has to sacrifice, we’re not going to get a lot of shots. We all are used to averaging over 25 or more on our team and we’re not about to be like that and I don’t think he could buy into that.”
Instead, Henry decided to commit to Kansas, allowing for Wall to sign with Kentucky. Had things gone differently, though, the former Wildcat star would have likely ended up at Miami.
“I think his brother was trying to go to school too and I think Cal ended up not bringing him and I was like, ‘OK, I’m going to Kentucky,’” Wall said. “I think if Xavier would have went then I would’ve ended up going to Miami.”
Wall went on to average 16.6 points, 6.5 assists, and 4.3 rebounds per contest, leading Kentucky to an Elite Eight finish in the NCAA Tournament before being selected No. 1 overall in the NBA Draft.
Meanwhile, Henry averaged 13.4 points, 4.4 rebounds, and 1.5 assists per game in his lone season at Kansas, with the Jayhawks falling in the second round of the NCAA Tournament to 9-seed Northern Iowa. The former five-star recruit was selected No. 12 overall by the Memphis Grizzlies, playing in the NBA till the 2013-14 season and falling out of the G League after the 2016-17 season.
Good call, Coach Cal.