Words by Justin Walsh
Last year, the freshman class in the hoop game didn’t live up to the hype. Cats took a while to hit stride, jumpers took most of the conference schedule to start falling, post moves were weak, crosses got their cookies took and defense was shook. This year, the hype is high once more. In Kansas, Xavier Henry is expected to bring a banner to Jayhawk nation as a freshman. In Texas, Avery Bradley and Jordan Hamilton feel the need to bring the burnt orange to the Final Four. And in Kentucky, land of hardwood royalty, John Wall is expected to be the entire Justice League in the SEC.
Sure, Kentucky has a loaded frontcourt with three McDonald’s All-American jerseys in their closets, but it’s all about PG play in Kentucky. The weight of every failed season in the past decade for the Wildcats rests on John’s shoulders; each time he walks on campus, hometown heroes living through their favorite athlete give him the look of expectancy. He is expected to be great. He is expected to bring a national championship to Bluegrass land. He is expected to be that guy. Forget that he’s never played a college game yet or been adorned in Kentucky’s finest threads. Best believe John Wall has it sewed up.
Six foot four, arms stretched out like the horizon on the court, John will take your lunch. If you don’t protect the rock bringing it up the floor, get ready to change direction — not one of those ‘cross over your man’ changes of direction, but a ‘get your ass back on defense before he dunks on the home court rims.’ On offense, he might give you the ‘Stackhouse ‘em‘ Special.
Don’t get it twisted; he’s still a young buck. There are times on the court when he forces a drive to the hoop, where he might try to thread the needle in a spot where JKidd himself wouldn’t bother. He’s a young Brett Favre. He’ll take that risk from time to time, but when it’s on… “Got ‘em, coach.”
Will he live up to expectations? Nobody can be sure. PGs these days are so hit or miss. Will he go the way of Felipe Lopez, Kenny Anderson and Julius Hodge? Or will he be the next “Never slip, or he will torch” guard of our generation a la Derrick Rose, Chris Paul and Deron Williams? As of yet, nobody can say, but one thing is certain: Opposing teams watch out, John Wall is a problem.