John Clay

With Wall away, Bledsoe came to play

John Clay
John Clay

Friday morning they were together on the balcony overlooking the floor of Memorial Coliseum, watching the Kentucky women's team open its basketball season with a rare late-morning game.

Or at least Eric Bledsoe and John Wall were there together until the autograph hounds became a little bit too much to bear.

"We actually had to go to class after that," Bledsoe said.

That stuff you hear about how Kentucky's two highly touted, high-profile guards are fast friends — and we do mean fast — forever together and rarely apart, it's true.

"I was very surprised," Bledsoe said on Friday night after Kentucky opened its season with a 75-59 win over Morehead State. "I thought John, he was going to be a jerk."

And he's not?

"He's a great person. He's a wonderful person. I love to be around him."

Here's something else you might have heard which is absolutely true: These two are pretty good.

With Wall sitting out the final game of his two-game suspension — sandwiched around his 27-point performance in last Friday's exhibition against Clarion — it was Bledsoe's time to shine.

And shine he did, scoring 24 points, the most ever by a UK freshman in his collegiate debut. Bledsoe topped Sam Bowie's 22 points against Duke in the 1979 Hall of Fame game.

A tad shy off the court but with a big smile, Bledsoe exploded on the court for 22 second-half points.

"I told him to take over the game," John Calipari joked afterward.

"I had to stop worrying about my ankle," Bledsoe explained.

That would be the ankle the Alabama native tweaked at the end of the Campbellsville exhibition game on Nov. 2. It would also be about the only thing that could slow Bledsoe down.

The injury caused him to miss the Clarion exhibition game on Nov. 6, the one in which Wall took the starring role. This past Monday, Bledsoe practiced only on offense. He sat out Tuesday's practice altogether so he could get treatment on his ankle. He returned to practice Wednesday and Thursday, but he admitted that it worried him a bit in the first half against Morehead.

Then he stopped worrying, and, among other things, hit a circus shot while falling down — one of those "wow" shots — that ignited the crowd and the Cats.

"I don't know what happened," Bledsoe said. "I just threw it up, and it went in."

"To tell you the truth, in pickup and practice, we see it all the time," fellow freshman Daniel Orton said. "He has great body control and great touch with the ball. As a shot blocker, it's really aggravating."

How aggravating will it be to opponents when Wall returns on Monday against Miami (Ohio) and there will be two of these blurs headed down the floor?

"Me and John," Bledsoe said, "we just attack the rim at all times."

Said Orton, "Their speed is just incredible. No one can really keep up with either one of them. Together, they can run together. They're both so explosive, one can throw a lob to the other and they're going to catch it and finish."

Morehead State Coach Donnie Tyndall was impressed with Bledsoe. "John Wall is better than him?" he asked. "Wow. He completely took the game over."

Here's what Calipari said of Bledsoe: "I loved him. "I love his courage on the floor. As you guys know, I think he's a very intelligent player. I expect from him six assists and two turnovers."

He might expect to get more than that, given how Bledsoe himself said he expected one thing when it came to his relationship with Wall, and he has gotten another.

So, someone asked, did you really come here expecting to be starting alongside John Wall?

"I didn't expect it," said Bledsoe, smiling, "but it's worked out good."

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