Top prospect Wall denies he's going pro as recruitment intensifies
NEW YORK -- As 18-year-old
"I already promised my mom and my dad, before he died" -- he passed away from cancer when Wall was 9 -- "that I was going to college, so I'm not even thinking about the NBA this year," he told SI.com. Because he's not in a postgraduate year of high school, Wall said, "I don't think I'd even be eligible anyway, and even if I was, I wouldn't go in the draft."
So there it is: Wall won't be in the draft until, at the earliest, 2010, at which point he could go No. 1 overall, if
That doesn't mean the drama surrounding John Wall is over, though. In the college world, it's only getting started. Because as Wall gets ready to play in the Jordan Brand Classic at Madison Square Garden on Saturday, he still has eight schools on his list and three others who are known to have inquired about his services. The biggest question in college basketball this spring is WWWG -- Where Will Wall Go -- because the 6-foot-3 kid whom talent evaluator
This is why Wall received a call from new Kentucky coach
But Kentucky is hardly the only school in the hunt: Florida coach
Wall is such hot commodity everyone's looking for a sign as to the direction he might be leaning, no matter how trivial it may be. Here's one:
For the record, both Henson and Plumlee
Cousins had originally pledged to play for Calipari when he was coaching the Tigers, and said, "I've been on [Wall] about playing with me for a while -- since right after I committed to Memphis." And Cousins said he plans to keep applying the pressure.
The overzealous fans aren't likely to let up, either -- or at least everyone other than the NC State freshman who received a
"The decision John's going to make is a business decision," said Clifton, "not one off of emotion. He's smarter than that. So these people waving signs and setting up blogs and Facebook pages to encourage him, he knows that those people don't know his situation, what he needs, or what he wants. They've heard he's a good player, that he could help the team they cheer for, and that's the extent of what they know about the situation."
What is there to know about Wall's situation, then? For one, he keeps a small circle -- with the principals being Pulley and Clifton, who's known Wall since he was 12 -- around him at nearly all times (including at the Westin on Wednesday) and would move with him if he chooses an out-of-state school. The fact that Pulley has lingering health concerns -- she was hospitalized with an aneurysm last year -- makes Raleigh-area schools an attractive option, although not the only option. She was an NC State fan growing up, which is one reason the Wolfpack remain in the mix. As for Duke, Wall said his 17-year-old sister,
Clifton, Wall and Pulley met with Coach K on March 29 on the Duke campus, and one part of the Blue Devils' presentation, Wall said, was film of former point guard
How much does it matter what Clifton thinks? North Carolina might be the litmus test, if
Williams could still recruit Wall directly, by calling him, his mother and high-school coach at Word of God. "[Williams] is well within his right to do that," Clifton said. "And John can go to whatever school he decides to. But I honestly feel that to make that decision he's going to have to turn to his mother and turn to me and have both of us say, we support it. And I absolutely would not support him going to UNC."
On the flip-side of North Carolina's no-contact-with-Clifton stance is Baylor, which added
Asked if he thought Baylor would be upset if he didn't end up committing there, Wall said, "I hope they wouldn't be upset. I hope they gave [Dwon] the job not to just get closer to me."
In the meantime, the rest of Wall's suitors are working their own angles. When Donovan and Lanier met with Wall and Clifton in Portland, the coaches showed video of how Florida used its point guard,
Kansas might have been a more suitable destination for Wall had its point guard,
And then there's Kentucky, and Calipari, whom Clifton said has expressed that his team "desperately needs a point guard" to run the Dribble-Drive Motion offense that he employed at Memphis. Wall would be the perfect fit, and if Calipari were to convince swingman
Had Calipari never left Memphis, Wall says he was "leaning" toward going there. Wall had made two unofficial visits to Lexington when
Clifton thinks the decision may well come to that -- whether or not Wall is fully committed to being in the draft in 2010, or open to the possibility of staying in college.
"John absolutely wants to be a pro," Clifton said, "and if you want to be a one-and-done, there are situations that are more conducive to that. Maybe you have two really good schools, two really strong traditions, two great coaches, but one of them is going to allow you to more easily continue on your path, if that's what you want to do. ... But if you're going to be on campus for two, three or four years, then maybe that situation isn't as attractive as the other one. When John comes to grips with what's most important for him, then he'll be able to make his decision."
It's a decision that could keep coaches and fans on edge for the rest of the spring and into the summer. The NCAA's spring signing period opened on Wednesday, when Cousins was faxing his signature to Lexington, and ends on May 20. But any school seriously in the hunt for Wall would hold a scholarship open for him, and allow him to enroll without signing a letter of intent. Which means Wall could take the process all the way up until June 15, when he'd know exactly which players were in or out of the NBA draft pool. "I think John will wait until he feels comfortable with everything, because it's a situation that's going to change his life and the lives of people he cares about," Clifton said. "And I absolutely support him waiting."