John Wall has had a really good year. After recovering from knee surgery, Wall burst back onto the NBA scene and showed his haters why he is one of the league’s most talented point guards, scoring a career-high 47 points against Memphis in March. From there, he was on a tear, and over the summer, was rewarded for his efforts with a 5-year, $80 million max contract. Since then, Wall has been enjoying the fruits of his labor, playing in the Team USA mini-camp in Vegas, getting tattoos, hitting up the social scene with famous new friends like Ludacris, posing for ESPN The Magazine’s Body Issue, and most recently, buying an awesome new $5 million house in DC. And for those of you criticizing his behavior as of late, keep in mind that Wall didn’t always have it this nice. When he was eight-years-old, his father was released from prison only to die a month later from liver cancer, and his mother worked multiple jobs to support him and his sisters. I think he deserves to have a little fun.
Even while he was at UK, Wall was very careful about his image, trying to make himself as appealing as possible to NBA teams and advertisers. Wall’s always been confident–last month, he said he’d rank himself as the league’s best point guard–but that kind of “swagger” is essential in a franchise player. Wall got off to a somewhat slow start in the NBA (due in part to injury), but if I had to make a prediction, I’d say in three years, he will be one of the elite point guards in the game.
In honor of John’s 23rd birthday, here are my top five favorite John Wall moments:
1) The dance: Of course I had to include the dance. It launched a thousand “UK Fan of the Day” photos, amateur rap songs, and of course, shots at Lexington bars. While most of Wall’s teammates simply smiled and waved (or looked terrified) as they descended from Rupp’s rafters, Wall stole the spotlight and gave fans a signature move to express the giddiness of Kentucky basketball being back.
2) His first game and his first game-winner: Considering all the hype around Wall coming in, the stats from his debut as a Kentucky Wildcat weren’t astounding (19 points, 5 assists, 0 steals), but he showed how cool he is in clutch situations when he hit the game-winner at the buzzer against Miami.
3) The world meets Wall at Madison Square Garden: Wall really showed the world what he can do against UConn at Madison Square Garden on December 9, 2009. Wall scored 25 points, including 12 of UK’s last 15, in a win that would vault the Cats to #3 in the polls.
4) That dunk at Georgia: Haha. Take that, Travis Leslie.
5) Don’t call it a comeback: Back on March 25, 2013, Wall scored a career-high 47 points in the Wizards’ win over the Grizzlies, and in true Wall form, said he could have gone for more.
Feel free to share your favorite Wall moments in the comments section. Now, some news from the day:
Basketball begins this weekend
Well, not officially, but the Alumni game is Monday night, and with it, most of Kentucky’s NBA players will return to campus. Cal’s Fantasy Camp also starts Saturday, which means there will be plenty of opportunities for the returning pros to hang out with the the current squad, something that Cal told reporters he is especially excited about on Thursday. He says he wants his former players to play against the new guys and give him a full report, and that from a few pick-up games this summer, DeMarcus Cousins and Eric Bledsoe are already impressed:
“(They) went crazy … were so happy when they played pickup against them. ‘We’re back! Yeah!’. We’re not back. We’ve got a long way to go. But as far as what we look like, we’re back. Now we look like what we’ve always looked like. Whether they play that way, we’ll have to see.”
Cal also said that the alumni were embarrassed by the program’s NIT finish last season, and will warn the new squad not to let it happen again. Oh, to be a fly on that wall…
UK isn’t allowed to release the names of the pros participating in the event, but KSR can. Here’s the list of participants we know of so far:
DeAndre Liggins (although after this week’s events…)
*Miller may play a half for both squads
Joe Crawford, Jamaal Magloire, and Brandon Knight will also play, although it’s not clear which team they’ll suit up for. Earlier reports suggested John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins wouldn’t be allowed to play in the game due to contract issues, but we’re hearing that Wall will definitely play, so don’t give up hope.
The game tips off Monday night at 7 p.m. ET at Rupp Arena. Gates will open at 5 p.m. so fans can watch more of Kentucky’s alums (Ramon Harris, Mark Krebs, Randolph Morris, Jared Prickett, Andre Riddick, Perry Stevenson and Kenny Walker) play against the Fantasy Camp All-Stars at 5:15 p.m. Sadly, the event will not be televised, but Drew and I will be there to make sure you don’t miss a single second. In fact, KSR will have exclusive coverage of the Fantasy Camp all weekend, so be sure to check the site early and often for behind-the-scene stories, photos, and knowing Drew, several Instagram videos.
17,000 tickets have been sold so far. Don’t have yours yet? There are still plenty available over at Ticketmaster. It’s also a huge recruiting weekend, as the nation’s number one player, Jahlil Okafor, will be on campus for the event, along with Tyler Ulis and Devin Booker. Many believe the Cats have a better shot with Okafor than they did a few months ago, and what better weekend to show him what his future could look like if he decided to be a Cat? Ulis and Booker (possibly a package deal) will have just finished up a visit to Michigan State, so it’s imperative that Kentucky makes a good impression. It’s rumored that last year, Julius Randle committed to UK on the spot after visiting for the Alumni Game. Could the same thing happen this time around?
Miss Alabama is planning on wearing this dress and these shoes during the upcoming Miss America competition, which is just…well…bless her little Bama-loving heart.
Kenny Walker raves about the Cats
DeMarcus Cousins and Eric Bledsoe were excited after playing with the new Cats, and Kenny Walker was equally as pumped after watching a recent practice. Walker joined Matt on KSR Thursday morning to talk about what he saw, and his claim that Julius Randle is the most talented player to come to UK since Shawn Kemp. Walker said that Randle has the body of a young LeBron James, and even better, he knows how to use it. He also compared the freshman’s work ethic to Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and predicted he’ll be the team’s leading scorer. What about the other Cats? Walker saw them practice before the Harrison Twins and James Young arrived on campus, but thinks Marcus Lee is the squad’s darkhorse, and that Alex Poythress has responded to the challenge of playing against Julius Randle. To hear all of Sky’s comments, check out the first hour of the podcast. He calls in at the 32-minute mark.
Kentucky vs. Miami: The Ultimate Must-Win
It sounds silly to say considering that Miami lost to Marshall 52-14 last week, but Saturday’s game is an absolute must-win for Mark Stoops and the Cats. After practice on Thursday, Stoops said that the team is still trying to find the perfect balance of excitement before the game. Stoops also said that the team seems “more comfortable” this week as opposed to last week, but the real test will be how they respond out of the gate on Saturday. Standouts this week: TE Anthony Kendrick, Daron Blaylock, and Ryan Timmons. With Maxwell Smith established as the team’s leader, you’ve gotta think that the Air Raid will be more Air Raid this week, and Stoops says he hopes the team’s young wide receivers build on promising performances in Nashville.
Congrats to Wesley Woodyard, who got the first tackle of the NFL season in Denver’s game against Baltimore. Woodyard just moved to middle linebacker, and obviously isn’t have any problems with the transition. Danny Trevathan also started in Woodyard’s old position, weakside linebacker. Hearing them say “Kentucky” in the defensive intro never gets old. Even better, they got some major love from Cris Collinsworth, who said of the two: “These two guys can run. They’re inside backers–Trevathan and Wesley Woodyard–they’re like the two guys from San Francisco. They can cover anybody.”
— Finally, Kentucky Sports Radio radio will be coming to you live from 30 Red Sports Saloon (9601 Newbridge Road) in Louisville on Friday. Matt, Ryan and Jared Lorenzen will give you two hours of radio gold leading up to the first home football game, so be sure to stop by if you’re in the area. They’re also giving away some tickets if you need any extra incentive.
See you then.