Wall shines despite uncertain status
Published 4:22 am Thursday, October 29, 2009
LEXINGTON, Ky. — John Wall took off on two feet, pulled his left arm behind his head and threw down a tomahawk dunk. Moments later, the Kentucky freshman point guard took an inbounds pass and beat everybody down the court for a layup.
Wall hopes his 25-point performance in Kentucky’s annual Blue-White game on Wednesday night is a sneak preview of what’s to come.
He still has no idea when the real show will begin.
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Wall’s status remains up in the air two weeks before Kentucky’s season-opener against Morehead State as the NCAA investigates the relationship between Wall and Brian Clifton, his former AAU coach.
Clifton was a certified agent between 2007 and 2008, and Wall said Clifton joined him on numerous recruiting trips during that period, including two unofficial visits to Kentucky in the fall of 2007.
If Clifton helped pay for Wall’s visits, that would constitute Wall accepting illegal benefits from an agent under NCAA rules. If the benefits are more than $101, an athlete has to repay the value of the benefits and be subject to suspension for at least 10 percent of the team’s regular-season games.
Wall, considered one of the top high school players in the nation last year, said he’s not trying to focus on his eligibility.
‘‘It is what it is, it’s just something you’ve got to deal with,’’ he said.
Kentucky coach John Calipari said he believes Wall will be cleared to play when the Wildcats begin the most highly anticipated season in years. He called the investigation ‘‘a private matter’’ that isn’t isolated at Kentucky.
‘‘There’s probably 10-15 kids going through the same thing that John’s going through, but he’s been cleared in every way,’’ Calipari said. ‘‘The other stuff they’re looking at, they’re looking at with a lot of kids.’’
Asked to clarify his answer, Calipari bristled for a moment.
‘‘There’s all kinds of different levels of clearance and like I said, there’s 10-15 kids going through the same thing,’’ he said. ‘‘Let’s talk about the scrimmage.’’
Wall and the rest of the new-look Wildcats gave their coach plenty of fodder. Wall delivered a handful of highlight reel plays, forward Patrick Patterson displayed a new 3-point stroke and freshman point guard Eric Bledsoe shined while playing alongside his more ballyhooed classmate.
Calipari admitted he’s still at the point where he’s experimenting with his lineups and said the Wildcats have focused the first nine days of practice installing his dribble-drive offense. He’s pleased with the results so far, but is hardly ready to proclaim his team as a national title contender. The players combined for 32 turnovers and looked exhausted at times while trying to play at the frenetic pace Calipari is expecting.
‘‘We are not close to where we need to be,’’ Calipari said. ‘‘But I think that (we) got a mental picture of what we were trying to do.’’
Much of that picture centers on Wall, who gives the Wildcats the kind of explosive guard they’ve lacked for years.
‘‘No one is really paying attention to it, no one is really worried about it,’’ Patterson said. ‘‘We just go in the gym preparing like he’s going to play. … We have faith in him playing. We’re not worried about him being ineligible or not playing or being out for the season.’’