A conversation with Kentucky Coach John Calipari apparently eased freshman star John Wall's hurt feelings.
"Me and Cal talked," he said on Monday. "And it's all good. It's all behind me. I'm back to having fun."
After UK beat Vanderbilt on Saturday, Wall talked to reporters about his frustration. In particular, he mentioned how Calipari had said Wall played poorly in the Cats' loss at South Carolina on Tuesday. "John Wall really hurt us," Calipari had said in making the point that too much attention had been paid to Patrick Patterson's sub-par play against the Gamecocks.
"I didn't think I played that bad," Wall said after Kentucky beat Vandy. "I don't know what to expect. He's probably going to say I played bad today too so I don't know. I just try not to listen to him and go out and play basketball and try and help my team win."
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When asked if he was having fun, Wall said, "To be honest, I really haven't been having fun for the last two weeks. It's just being frustrated and things like that so, I just got to figure it out before we go further in league play."
On a Southeastern Conference coaches' teleconference on Monday, Calipari said Wall came to him later Saturday "like a puppy dog" and wanted to talk.
When Wall spoke of his frustration, Calipari offered advice.
"Kid, you're trying to live up to this hype they've built on you and you'll be unhappy if you try to live up to it," the UK coach said he told Wall. "Just play. Have fun and enjoy yourself.
"And when you play bad, it's OK to play bad. Derrick Rose and Tyreke (Evans) had bad games. It's OK."
Wall seemed less than sold on that pitch from Calipari.
"He said they had a lot of awful games," Wall said with a smile. "But every time I looked, they didn't seem to have bad games. They were winning."
Wall had cited Rose and Evans as key reasons he signed with Kentucky. He wanted Calipari to get him prepared for the NBA as the coach did in one-and-done fashion for Rose and Evans.
Calipari put his critcism of Wall's play at South Carolina into the perspective of preparation for the cold, cruel NBA world.
"Let me just tell you," Calipari said to reporters. "If you think I'll be the last coach to tell him he didn't play well ... He has to learn to deal with that."
Calipari all but promised he will continue criticizing when he feels it's warranted.
"I coached NBA players," Calipari said, "so I'm certainly not afraid of a 19-year-old. I'm telling the truth. I'm not sugar-coating it."
In speaking to reporters, Wall sounded contrite. He said he needed to mature.
"I have to try to believe in what he's saying and get better at it," Wall said. "... It makes me mature quicker than you want to be."
In explaining Wall's frustration, coach and player cited the upgrade in competition that comes with entering the Southeastern Conference portion of the schedule. That schedule continues Tuesday night with a game against Ole Miss, which lists a veteran backcourt as its strength. Through six SEC games, Wall has averaged 16.2 points (second on the team to another freshman, DeMarcus Cousins), but he's made only 39 percent of his shots and committed a team-high 25 turnovers.
"The start of the season, it wasn't that tough," Wall said. "I was having a lot of fun and scoring when I wanted to. Now teams are keying on me. I'm not getting to the basket like I want to."
Wall noted how high-flying plays like an alley-oop dunk fuel his game.
"I ain't had a dunk in I don't know how long," he said in a quiet voice. "... I've got to get used to playing without a spectacular play."
To counter opponents' concentrating on keeping him from the rim, Wall said he's been working on a pull-up jumper and displaying it in recent games. When asked if the pull-up jumper was as much fun as a dunk, Wall smiled again and said, "It's two points, but it's not as much fun."
Such adjustments are part of basketball, Calipari said. SEC opponents plot to contain Wall. That includes putting a taller defender on him. "(They) hope he's not making shots and it goes to his head," the UK coach said.
Part of UK's counter is to feed Cousins in the post. That also lessens Wall's statistic haul and his chances for the spectacular play.
"Part of the reason DeMarcus is having such a field day is you've got to keep throwing him the ball," Calipari said. "They're really concerned with John Wall.
"The next thing is they'll trap (Cousins). How does he react to seven (points) and three (rebounds)?"
That's part of the reason Calipari called Wall's frustration a "wonderful teaching point" for all the UK players.