Mark Story: Wall, Bledsoe give Cats a break

Herald-Leader Sports ColumnistOctober 16, 2009 

In recent years, many Kentucky fans have shared a common lament. UK basketball has been too much of a slow waltz.

Well, get ready. It appears the Cats have the guard play to crank things up.

At Kentucky basketball media day, 2009, one theme was persistent: John Wall and Eric Bledsoe, UK's two lavishly hyped freshman point guards, are about to take Kentucky basketball to warp speed.

Perry Stevenson reminisced about the first time he was on the court with Wall, the basketball prodigy some are touting for national college basketball player of the year before he's ever played in a real-life college basketball game.

"I don't even think I saw him — he was moving too fast," Stevenson said.

Jon Hood, Kentucky's reigning high school Mr. Basketball, said he sure never saw anything like Wall and Bledsoe in his days playing for Madisonville High School.

"John, he moves so fast, so quick. Same with Eric," Hood said. "It's weird. I've never been around anyone so fast. And we've got two of them."

During an upbeat day where John Calipari's first Kentucky team was formally unveiled, there was really only one point of contention.

From baseline to baseline, who's faster? The 6-foot-4 Wall or the the 6-1 Bledsoe?

Said Stevenson: "I don't know. They kind of both move in blurs."

Said Hood: "I know, end line to end line, I would really like to see that race."

Next, we turned to the principals.

OK, John Wall, who's faster?

"I'm going to say me," Wall said with a grin. "It's pretty tough, but I'm going to say me."

What about that, Eric?

"It's me. I'm faster," Bledsoe said.

Of course, if raw speed were all that mattered in a basketball player, Usain Bolt would be more valuable in the NBA than LeBron James.

For a fast-break starved UK fan base, what makes Wall and Bledsoe so tantalizing is they are fuel-injected jets who also bring both basketball skill and know-how.

Daniel Orton, one of UK's freshman big men, said you learn real quick once you start playing with Wall and Bledsoe "to keep your hands up and watch your head."

Lest one of the guards bounce a pass off your noggin.

Patrick Patterson said his lasting memories of Wall and Bledsoe from the pickup-game circuit are "John doing some crazy reverse spin layup and Eric jumping out of the gym dunking on somebody."

Yet their teammates say the new Kentucky point guards have substance to go with their sizzle.

Wall "will definitely give you the ball in the right time at the right situation," Darius Miller said. "He knows the game really well and he looks to pass the ball."

Of Bledsoe, Wall said his fellow freshman point "is athletic and strong, but he knows the game. He knows how to slow down and change speeds if he needs to."

When both the highly recruited point guards chose Kentucky last spring, there was immediate speculation over whether two players with star pedigrees, both of whom are used to having the ball in their hands, could be happy on the same roster.

The chance of playing-time conflict between the two lessened significantly when Kentucky shooting guard Jodie Meeks turned pro.

Calipari said Thursday he may use a backcourt combination that includes both Wall and Bledsoe.

Wall said he's all for it.

"I love playing with him and Eric loves playing with me," Wall said. "Get us two pushing it at you at the same time, it's going to be pretty tough to stop."

In the meantime, the two new UK points say they race the basketball at such a pace that some of their teammates all but cry uncle.

"Me and John, we like to run," Bledsoe said. "The other players are like, 'slow down.' We're like, 'C'mon.'"

Said Wall: "The other guys, they've got to know if they run with us in the open court, they can score, too. We want to push."

For a fan base longing for the return of basketball with a rumba beat, sweeter words could not have been spoken.

Reach Mark Story at (859) 231-3230 or 1-800-950-6397, Ext. 3230, or mstory@herald-leader.com. Your e-mail could appear on the blog Read Mark Story's E-mail at Kentucky.com.

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