Let’s face it, Kentucky freshman, John Wall, is just that dude right now. He’s Jesus Shuttlesworth in He Got Game. He’s LeBron circa 2003. Nobody in college basketball even comes close to generating the kind of excitement and hype as this 6-4 point guard. Wall is the best freshman (perhaps player) in the country right now and a near lock for the top pick in the 2010 NBA Draft.
It seems every year, there’s some phenom in college and high school that we as journalists love to over-hype and anoint the next Michael Jordan or the next LeBron, etc. After all, there’s papers to be sold and internet hits that need to be counted. The media did it with Blake Griffin last year, Derrick Rose in 2008, Greg Oden in 2007 and so forth and so on. So it gets a little hazy when you’re trying to gauge how good John Wall really is. Is he one of those “comes around once every 10 years” kind of point guards like Jason Kidd and Chris Paul? Or is he just a talented guard who can dunk really well?
Yeah, everyone has seen the YouTube clips of Wall dominating in high school with his left-handed spin moves, the And-1-style crossovers and the Harold Miner-esque slams. Even at Kentucky, Wall has the tendency to be flashy. But there’s also a lot of substance to his game. If he is just a SportsCenter highlight-reel, then why is Kentucky undefeated at 10-0 and ranked third in the country? You can’t argue with his buzzer-beater to beat Miami (OH) in his first college game ever. Or the 14 dimes he threw versus UNC-Asheville or the 26 point, 6 steal performance against UConn at Madison Square Garden in front of a national TV audience.
For the season, Wall is averaging 18.1 ppg, 7.1 apg, 4.1 rpg, 2.8 spg while shooting 54 percent from the field and 36.8 percent from the three-point line. He’s also been named SEC Freshman of the Week for the past three weeks.
“He’s great,” LeBron told the Associated Press last week. “His speed with the ball. He’s like (Chicago guard) Derrick Rose. Derrick is much stronger than he is, but he has some of the same athleticism that Derrick has and Coach Cal (Kentucky coach John Calipari) is going to let those type of guys play. He has shown why he came out being the top player in high school and is one of the top 5 players in college.”
“He’ll be the No. 1 pick in the draft.”
According to the scouting website NBADraft.net, Wall is predicted to be the top pick in next June’s draft. Already, teams like the Nets, Timberwolves and Jazz are probably drooling over the possibility of having this kid on their roster next season. You can also bet, the sneaker giants like adidas and Nike are already preparing their sales pitch to the 19-year old Wall.
“Wall has a certain flair and charisma to his game that few have,” says Aran Smith, president of NBADraft.net. “He’s got that media darling personality to ultimately carry his own line of shoes. His game still has a long ways to go, but similar to (Derrick) Rose he’s got natural passing ability and the potential to develop into a great point guard on top of the elite level speed and athleticism.”
While the hype around Wall is legit, he is still not on the same level that LeBron or Melo were when they were 19 years old. As explosive and fast as Wall is, at 6-4 and 190 pounds – he is still not physically ready to dominate at the next level. He doesn’t always make good decisions with the ball and can be erratic at times (he averages over 4 turnovers a game). His bravado at times might have GMs thinking another Nate Robinson rather than another Deron Williams.
“Wall isn’t in LeBron’s league in terms of potential,” says Smith. “But he does have the potential to challenge Paul, Rose and Deron Williams over the next decade as the top point guard in the league, which is really saying something.”
Bottom line, the college season is not even halfway done. Wall will continue to have big games, but there will also be times he struggles – especially come tournament time. While he will definitely be in the NBA next season, be careful not to expect the world out of him. He’s guaranteed to be good, but whether he’s going to be great, remains to be seen.
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