College Basketball: Wall wants win, not payback, against UNC
LEXINGTON, Ky. ó John Wall remembers the conversation vividly, as tends to happen when the coach of the college team you grew up dreaming to play for is on the other end of the line.
Wall said North Carolina coach Roy Williams told him the Tar Heels were still interested in the high school star, and that he’d call again once the NCAA tournament was over.
“He (said) he would call me when it’s over and he never called,” Wall said. “He never offered me. That’s the decision he made.”
One that was difficult for Wall, a native of nearby Raleigh, N.C., who idolized former North Carolina stars Jerry Stackhouse and Vince Carter, to stomach.
Don’t get him wrong. The freshman point guard is glad he signed with Kentucky, where he’s proved even better than advertised for the fifth-ranked Wildcats (7-0).
Wall is averaging 18.5 points and 7.8 assists heading into today’s showdown with the 10th-ranked Tar Heels (7-1). He is seamlessly fit into coach John Calipari’s “dribble drive” offense.
“I think John in the end is a pleaser,” Calipari said.
Williams never doubted Wall’s ability, calling him the best high school point guard prospect since Jason Kidd. While not getting into specifics on why he didn’t offer Wall a scholarship, Williams stressed it had nothing to do with Wall’s talent.
“I thought he would’ve been a great player for us, but things just didn’t fit,” Williams said. “Some shoes don’t fit.”
Maybe, but that doesn’t mean Wall is over it.
Calipari said during the recruiting process some people close to Wall had even hinted he should opt for Duke instead of North Carolina even if the Tar Heels offered.
The questions surrounding Wall’s relationship with former AAU coach Brian Clifton may have also been an obstacle for some coaches. Wall was suspended for two games at the start of the season by the NCAA for accepting improper benefits from Clifton ó who was briefly a licensed agent ó during his junior year of high school.
Williams won’t get into the specifics of Wall’s recruitment, simply noting he pursued Wall throughout Wall’s high school career before opting to go in another direction.
“A couple of things happened immediately after (we talked) that helped me make the decision not to go any further,” Williams said.
Wall has tried hard not to take Williams’ decision personally, but he hasn’t succeeded.
“I kind of took it both ways,” Wall said. “I feel like they didn’t think I was good enough to play there or took it in a way that they’re just moving on forward and they’re happy with what they’ve got and the players they have.”
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