UK Men's Basketball

UK's Wall ready for college debut

With his belated college debut at hand, Kentucky freshman John Wall expects to be nervous at tip-off Monday night against Miami (Ohio).

"If you don't have jitters going into a game, you're not a basketball player," he said Sunday.

The official unveiling of a player widely perceived as the first pick in next year's NBA Draft figures to cause other emotions among those in the Kentucky camp: elation, reassurance, anticipation.

But Coach John Calipari downplayed this first time to see his star freshman guards, Eric Bledsoe and Wall, on the court together against outside competition.

When asked what he expected Wall's addition to mean Monday, Calipari said, "I don't know. We'll see when they play. Hopefully, less turnovers. But maybe not."

Wall sat out the opener against Morehead State on Friday as part of the punishment for allowing an agent, his AAU coach Brian Clifton, to pay some of his recruiting expenses.

That made Miami Coach Charlie Coles playfully re-think his schedule.

"We should have scheduled this game on Friday," he quipped. "Oh, man, he's going to play Monday, buddy."

Coles saluted the speed and assertiveness that Wall can bring.

"I like him because he can go from one end of the court to the other," the Miami coach said. "That's the best weapon a point guard can have. Because what that does (is) it never lets you set your defense. When you don't set your defense, that means dunks, open three-pointers, fouls, offensive rebounds."

Wall voiced no eagerness to make up for Friday's absence with a boffo performance against Miami. He applauded Bledsoe's 24 points against Morehead State, which set a UK record for a freshman debut. Wall said he told Bledsoe before that game, "Show people what you're made of."

But Wall said Bledsoe's game — or the 27 points by Kansas freshman Xavier Henry — did not set a standard for him to seek.

"I'm not trying to put on a better show than Eric," Wall said.

More than once, Calipari has noted how Wall and Bledsoe play better together than apart.

For a while in the recruiting process, it seemed Wall and Bledsoe would go to different programs to ensure each a starring role.

Calipari sold them, especially Bledsoe, who committed first, on the idea of playing together.

What sounded to some like a recruiting pitch has become reality.

By following through on his promise to play Bledsoe and Wall together, Calipari said he was acting like any coach on any level.

"If your best two players are at the same position, you play them both," the UK coach said. "I'm not saying they are the two best players, but, obviously, they are two of the better players.

"Play them both. We'll figure it out. I'm no different than a high school coach, an eighth grade coach or a pro coach."

Wall and Bledsoe might be set up for a big first night together.

In describing Miami's 82-71 loss at Towson Friday night, Coles' analysis would have to reassure any UK fan.

"They just beat us up inside real good," Coles said in a telephone conversation Saturday morning. "Their guards penetrated. We didn't do a good job containing their guards. And when guards get inside, big guys either get rebounds or direct passes for dunks or layups."

If that's not a description of the dribble-drive, what is?

Coles noted that Miami has struggled to contain the dribbler consistently in practices and pre-season play. And Kentucky will have its two star freshman point guards for the first time in Monday's game.

"That's what's got me real, real, real worried," Coles said. "This thing could turn into a dunk-fest immediately. Immediately! It could be a nightmare."

When told about the Miami coach's lament about stopping opposing guards' drives, Wall smiled.

Coles also noted that he had only two days to patch his team's porous perimeter defense.

Calipari anticipated what Miami might do.

"I'd imagine what they'll try to do is get him (Wall) to run somebody over," the UK coach said. "They'll attempt to draw 15 charges in the first eight minutes. Some will be flops. Some will be real."

Calipari wondered aloud about how such a strategy might work.

"If you pass on the run," he said, "you'll run people over."