Even before he had played a minute of college basketball, Wildcats freshman point guard John Wall was seriously entertaining the question: Is he a contender for national player of the year? "That's one of my goals," says Wall, the country's top recruit and the linchpin of coach John Calipari's audacious instant-revival plans at Kentucky. "To be national player of the year would be great as a freshman, but I still have a lot to prove."

Wall's coach certainly doesn't dismiss the possibility. Calipari has built a cottage industry of turning one-and-done point guards into top 5 NBA draft picks—say hello, Derrick Rose and Tyreke Evans—and he has a pretty good idea how Wall's first season will play out. "Early in the year, people will say, 'Oh, I'm not sure how good he is,'" Calipari predicts. "That's what they said about Derrick and Tyreke. Neither one was putting his name in the draft in December, but by February you knew they were [gone]."

Calipari says Wall's development in the frenetic dribble-drive motion offense is ahead of where Rose's and Evans's were at the same stage. Wall combines speed, vision and explosiveness to get to the rim easily in traffic, but there is room for improvement in his shooting and game management. "He has to be able to [control tempo] better," says Calipari, adding that Wall has to figure out, "When do I fan things out? When do I get us organized?"

On a team with the nation's top-ranked recruiting class and another player of the year candidate in junior forward Patrick Patterson, it will be up to Wall to make the team's chemistry work. He says his role may be like that of Pau Gasol's on the Lakers—i.e., a franchise-player talent who's willing to support the star (Patterson) if necessary. Then he'll likely follow Rose and Evans to the NBA next year. "If the team has a great season like we're supposed to and I do what I'm supposed to and I'm ready to go," he says, "then I will."

PROJECTED STARTING FIVE

Coach

John Calipari (1st season)

2008--09 record

22--14

SEC

8--8 (T-4th)

NCAA tournament

Not selected

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POS. PLAYER HT. CLASS KEY STATS
G Eric Bledsoe* 6'1" Fr. 20.3 ppg 11.5 apg
G John Wall* 6'4" Fr. 22.1 ppg 5.5 apg
F Darnell Dodson† 6'7" Soph. 15.7 ppg 5.6 rpg
F Patrick Patterson 6'9" Jr. 17.9 ppg 9.3 rpg
F DeMarcus Cousins* 6'11" Fr. 24.1 ppg 13.2 rpg
KEY RESERVE
G-F Darius Miller 6'7" Soph. 5.3 ppg 3.1 rpg

Returning starter

*High school stats

†2008--09 stats at Miami-Dade CC

SCHEDULE

Nov. 19 Sam Houston State*

Nov. 21 Rider*

Nov. 24 Cleveland State*

Nov. 25 Stanford or Virginia*

Nov. 30 UNC Asheville

Dec. 5 North Carolina

Dec. 9 Connecticut

Dec. 12 at Indiana

Dec. 19 Austin Peay

Dec. 21 Drexel

Dec. 23 Long Beach State

Dec. 29 Hartford

Jan. 2 Louisville

Jan. 9 Georgia

Jan. 12 at Florida

Jan. 16 at Auburn

Jan. 23 Arkansas

Jan. 26 at South Carolina

Jan. 30 Vanderbilt

Feb. 2 Mississippi

Feb. 6 at LSU

Feb. 9 Alabama

Feb. 13 Tennessee

Feb. 16 at Mississippi State

Feb. 20 at Vanderbilt

Feb. 25 South Carolina

Feb. 27 at Tennessee

March 3 at Georgia

March 7 Florida

*Canc√∫n Challenge (Nov. 24--25 in Canc√∫n)

KEY GAME

The battle with bitter Bluegrass State rival Louisville at Rupp Arena could be the regular-season game of the year. The matchup takes on an added dimension given John Calipari's history with Louisville coach Rick Pitino, who as a former Kentucky coach doesn't get a warm reception there anyway.

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PHOTOMARK CORNELISON/LEXINGTON HERALD-LEADER/ZUMA PRESSJOHN WALL Expected to be the latest in a line of one-and-done Calipari point guards, he could be a Rose by another name. PHOTO

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)