UK-Arkansas notes

Jan. 24, 2010: Wall has 'no choice' but to go pro

jtipton@herald-leader.comJanuary 24, 2010 

After filling his stat line again on Saturday (16 points, seven assists, three steals), Kentucky freshman John Wall said he had "no choice" but to enter this year's NBA Draft.

That echoed UK Coach John Calipari insisting to radio host Dan Patrick earlier in the week that Wall would turn pro after this season.

"I joke about coming back, and like you say, he tells me, no," Wall said after UK's 101-70 victory over Arkansas on Saturday.

When a reporter noted that players must obey their coach, Wall smiled and said, "Yeah. I really have no choice."

Calipari told Patrick he'd wrestle with Wall rather than let the freshman return for a second UK season.

"Coach might," a smiling Wall said. "He might pull my eye out. You never know."

When he signed with Kentucky, Wall said a factor was Calipari's record of making point guards Derrick Rose and Tyreke Evans pros after one season. When a reporter reminded Wall of that comment, he said, "Yeah, you're right."

As for the Arkansas game, Wall had two memorable moments. After making a fast-break layup while being fouled, Wall turned to photographers beyond the end line and flexed his biceps.

"I'm getting stronger so I can fight through and" get three-point plays, he said.

In the second half, he attempted a fast-break lay-up after a 360-degree spin in the air. "I tried it like that in high school," he said. "I thought Eric (Bledsoe) was going to throw a lob. And he threw it behind me. So my instincts said to try it."

Earlier this season, UK held Wall out of interview sessions because the player feared his teammates might not react well to a flood of publicity. However, he posed for covers of Sports Illustrated and The Sporting News at the same time.

Wall explained the contradiction. "Coach Cal said Dean Smith turned down Michael Jordan (for the Sports Illustrated cover) and Michael Jordan still was mad at him," Wall said. "Coach Cal said as long as I'm not going to get big-headed and I'm going to keep performing like I'm supposed to, he'll give me a (cover) shot."

Pick your poison

Opposing coaches say you must pick your poison against UK: either concentrate on containing the big men or try to shut down the guards. Like most teams, Arkansas chose to sag inside and take its chances with UK's perimeter shooting.

UK foiled the strategy by making 10 of 33 three-point shots, the third-highest total of threes for the Cats this season. Darius Miller equaled a career-high four three-pointers en route to a career-high 18 points.

"If they make perimeter shots, it's a great debate whether they can be beat or not," Arkansas Coach John Pelphrey said. " ... You'd like to get them in a situation where they've got to shoot the ball out there. But they did very well. It's contagious. I don't know if it's as big a weakness as people talk about. Make no mistake, they're really, really good."

Broken teeth

Although UK led 10-0 inside the opening two minutes, Calipari took DeMarcus Cousins out of the game at the 18:12 mark. Huh?

Arkansas guard Courtney Fortson accidently broke two of Cousins' teeth with an elbow.

"I guess the little guard hit him in the mouth, not purposely, just trying to shoot a lay-up," Calipari said. " ... We were all laughing like oh my gosh, keep smiling."

Fortson told reporters the elbow-to-mouth contact was accidental.

"He just took an elbow in the mouth," Fortson said. "I told him I didn't mean to."

Dinner at Cal's

Lexington businessman Paul Orberson made the winning bid of $98,100 for the dinner at Calipari's house as part of the Hoops for Haiti fund-raiser. Orberson rounded off the bid and wrote a check for $100,000.

He and five friends will have dinner at Calipari's house with the coach's wife, Ellen, and actress/Cat fan Ashley Judd. Judd's personal chef Cathy Lewis will prepare the meal.

"I met Paul for the first time after he came into the gym," Calipari said. "We invited him to practice so I'd have a chance to meet him. What a great thing. He was touched by all this stuff, as we all were. We're going to have a nice dinner.

"I don't know if we can make it worth $100,000, but I think it's worth it to understand where that money went to Haiti."

Etc.

■ For only the third time, UK opened a season with 19 straight victories. The other two were in 1953-54 and 1965-66.

■ C.M. Newton remained the only former UK player to beat the Cats as a coach. The other eight former UK players to coach against the Cats fell to a combined 0-17. Pelphrey slipped to 0-3.

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