Before he spoke to reporters Friday, John Wall marveled at how he was about to begin his eighth season in the NBA. “Time is flying,” he said.
Wall was a self-described “skinny, scrawny little kid” when he came to Kentucky in 2009. Now, besides about to begin his eighth NBA season, Wall would first be enshrined as a member of the UK Athletics Hall of Fame.
Wall became the first John Calipari player to become a UK Hall of Famer. He was also the first one-and-done player to do so.
There will be more, Wall said.
“You have other great players,” he said. “I’m not the only one. You have DeMarcus (Cousins). You have Daniel (Orton). ‘EBled (Eric Bledsoe),’ Brandon Knight, Anthony Davis.
“It’s an honor. I couldn’t ask for anything more.”
Fittingly for a program synonymous with one-and-done players, Wall’s enshrinement came the same day as another heralded point guard committed to Kentucky: Immanuel Quickley, who is considered one of the best point guards in the high school class of 2018.
Wall, who embraces the idea of being a mentor to players that followed him to UK, offered advice to his point guard successors.
“It’s tough,” he said. “Everything is on you. Either Coach Cal or you are going to get the criticism if you lose or the team’s not doing well. . . .
“Coach Cal, he doesn’t want to be the person that’s got to yell every five seconds, even though he’s yelling about nothing half the time, and sweating most of the time. But he just wants you to be that guy that leads the team.”
At one point during his 2009-10 UK season, Wall famously said he was not having fun.
“Coach Cal was, like, ‘How are you not having fun?’” Wall said. “It wasn’t that I wasn’t worried about the team’s success. . . . Was it too much pressure for me to deal with? Trying to do this and do that, and then try to lead the team at 18 years old. Something I never had to deal with. And that can get tough on people at times.”
In his one Kentucky season, Wall was a first-team All-American. He also became the program’s first national Player of the Year and first No. 1 overall NBA Draft pick.
But, he said, he did not leave completely satisfied. “My ultimate goal was to win a championship here,” he said.
This led Wall to consider playing another season for Kentucky. He said he tried to convince players like Cousins and Bledsoe to do likewise.
“I was telling the guys, ‘I know you all can go to the league, but let’s come back one more year. I want to get that championship,’” Wall said.
When Calipari became aware of Wall’s idea of a sophomore season, he intervened.
“Coach Cal was, like, ‘Come here. You’re getting out of here.’ So I really couldn’t stay, but I wanted to because I wanted to give this university something that they didn’t have in a long time.”
Wall bought a Kentucky blue suit to wear to his enshrinement.
“It’s an honor, man,” he said. “It’s a blessing to be here for one year and have such an impact.”
Other persons enshrined in the UK Athletics Hall of Fame were Sherry Hoover Bordner (cross country, track), Randall Cobb (football), Collin Cowgill (baseball), Sarah Rumely (volleyball) and broadcaster Ralph Hacker.