UK Men's Basketball

Wall hopes to follow in footsteps of ex-Memphis star Rose

The mention of his idol, Derrick Rose, brought a smile to John Wall's face on Wednesday as he formally announced his college choice of John Calipari, er, Kentucky.

How Calipari got Rose NBA-ready in one Final Four season at Memphis clearly steered Wall's decision-making.

"It kind of convinced me," Wall said of signing with UK. "... What Coach Cal did for him at the University of Memphis I think I can do the same thing at the University of Kentucky."

Rose's path to the NBA led observers to assume Wall will be a so-called "one-and-done," a player who spends one season in college before turning pro.

"That's not my plan," he said. "My plan is to go to the University of Kentucky for the next two or three years. And if, after that one year, Coach Cal says it's time to go to the NBA, then I'm going to go."

When asked to compare Wall with Rose, recruiting analysts did not agree. Of course, it's a two-player race that has no loser.

Jerry Meyer of Rivals.com favored Wall, a 6-foot-4 player who averaged 21 points, seven rebounds and nine assists for Word of God Christian Academy in Raleigh, N.C.

"John Wall is a better prospect coming out of high school," Meyer said. "He's a more natural ball handler and passer and finisher at the basket."

But Bob Gibbons of All-Star Sports said some analysts are blinded by Wall's athleticism, which features dunking with ease either left- or right-handed.

"John still has a lot to learn," Gibbons said. "He's got all the speed, quickness and jumping ability. He might be a more spectacular athlete than Derrick Rose. But he's not as skilled a basketball player as Derrick Rose."

Dave Telep of Scout.com called Rose a "natural, true" point guard and Wall "more of a scoring guard."

Brick Oettinger of Prep Stars gave Wall the edge in athleticism.

"Wall's a tremendously creative passer even though he forces too many (passes) that turn into turnovers," Oettinger said.

The analysts agreed that neither Wall nor Rose was considered a standout shooter coming out of high school.

Meyer cited several reasons why he liked Wall more than Rose as a prospect entering college.

"He's got a lower dribble," the analyst said of Wall. "He's much better with his weak hand. Wall is an exceptional one-hand passer with his left or right hand, plays that Derrick didn't make."

Meyer also saw Wall as a better defender, potentially, in part because the future UK player is an inch taller than Rose.

"He can be a dominant defender," Meyer said. "Because of his length. He's taller than Derrick. He moves better laterally."

More than once, Wall cited Calipari as the key factor in the decision to sign with Kentucky rather than the other three finalists on his list, Florida, Miami and Duke.

"My relationship with Coach Cal just got overboard," Wall said.

The foundation of that relationship seems to be Calipari's record of quickly developing point guards for the NBA. Rose and Tyreke Evans played one season for Calipari at Memphis before turning pro.

Wall acknowledged the pressure that comes with trying to follow in Rose's footsteps.

"There's going to be a lot of expectations," he said. "As point guard, I'll try to make everything better and try to win games. I know it'll be tough."

Calipari issued a statement welcoming Wall.

"I've recruited John for nearly two years, and I've gotten to know him to be not only a fine player but a fine person," Calipari said. "He's a terrific teammate who wants to win, yet driven to personally improve. I'm very excited for the opportunity to add him to our family."

Wall joins a recruiting class widely considered the nation's best. Other UK signees include big men DeMarcus Cousins (top five prospect nationally) and Daniel Orton (top 25), point guard Eric Bledsoe (top 25), junior college wing Darnell Dodson and Kentucky Mr. Basketball Jon Hood.

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