When you think of some of the best players to ever put on a Kentucky uniform, John Wall is certainly in that conversation.
Not only is he one of the best to ever play at Kentucky, but he also turned the program around. Yes, John Calipari played a big part in bringing Kentucky basketball back from the dead, but it’s well documented that John Wall gave Kentucky its “swag” back.
Eleven years ago today, John Wall signed with Kentucky over Duke and Miami. But his one year in Lexington almost didn’t happen.
In an interview with Evan Daniels, Wall said that if Xavier Henry committed to Kentucky when John Calipari left Memphis for Lexington, he wouldn’t have gone 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 explained. “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.”
Well, Xavier Henry, who was ranked as the No. 6 player in the 2009 class, ended up going to Kansas. Because of this, Wall ended up in Lexington instead of committing to Frank Haith and Miami.
Wall was going to commit to Memphis to play for Calipari, but when Cal called Wall to tell him he was going to Lexington, he was fine with it. The only reason he didn’t want to go to Kentucky was because he didn’t want to play for Billy Gillespie.
“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 said. “I took a visit there when Billy Gillespie was there, I loved everything about it. I just didn’t want to play with coach Gillespie 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.’”
Wall said that if Xavier Henry went to Kentucky, he would’ve ended up in Miami, “I think [Xavier Henry’s] 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 also said that when Cal recruits you, he’s “just real.”
“I think he’s just real,” Wall said. “I think he’s just being real. He came to my house, he will go anywhere to go visit you, he doesn’t care if you live in the hood, not in the hood, he’s not scared, he’s pulling up and he probably talked about basketball for like two questions. Do you want to be great? Do you want to make the NBA? That’s it. Everything else is like, ‘how is your life going?’ what do you see yourself doing for your mom and doing for your family?”
“He’s really like a father figure to people,” he added. “He takes you in and he preaches to you about what he thinks you need to do to prepare yourself for where you want to get to.”
John Wall’s time in Lexington was unforgettable. Wall averaged 16.3 PPG, 6.5 APG, and 4.3 RPG while leading the Cats to an SEC Championship and an Elite Eight run.
To read more of the interview and to watch it yourself, click here.