John Wall. John Wall. John Wall. If you only glance at college basketball every now and again, you would probably assume that Wall is the only thing flying in the NCAA. And it’s hard not to like Kentucky’s Wildcat wonder. He flies in and out the lane like a Ferrari and jumps higher than Super Mario.
The freshman point guard is in the lead for Player of the Year honors and the top overall draft pick but running right beside him in each race is Ohio State’s Evan Turner. While Turner, a junior, might not have the cameras and stage-promoting head coach to talk him into a household name, he has the game of a perennial All-Star. His statline is ridiculous; 20 points, 9 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 steals and 1 block per night. Compare that with Wall’s 17 points, 4 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 steals and half a block per game and it’s not hard to see who should win both races.
Wall gets a lot of love because he’s the freshest on the scene, the newest face in the crowd, the new kid on the block and all those other good analogies but frankly, Turner’s just better. This past weekend’s victory over rival Michigan truly showed Turner’s versatility. The 6-foot-7 point guard/forward’s 11 rebounds and four blocks are numbers you’d be lucky to get from your average center –professional or college– let alone your point man. His ability to play positions one through three is something only select company can lay brag to. Add in his playmaking abilities –he had 18 points and seven assists against Michigan– and he’s a NBA franchise savior waiting to happen.
Several scouts compare Wall to ex-Memphis Tigers guard Derrick Rose. To find Turner’s comparison in my opinion, you might as well stay in Memphis. Former Tiger Penny Hardaway’s numbers as a junior are similar to Turner’s; 23 points, 8.5 rebounds, 6.4 assists 2.4 steals and 1.2 blocks per game. Turner may not have the flash and splash of Hardaway but when Turner’s 6-foot-7 frame is jogging down the court whipping passes behind his back, it’s hard not to think Penny.
Turner has the experience edge over Wall from having played an extra two seasons. As fantastic as Wall has been in his freshman year already, there’s no telling where his game will be in another two years. But Turner is already there and at only 21-years-old, he’s still young enough to get better.
His outside shot could use a little work (what college kid’s jumpshot doesn’t) but his midrange game is solid enough to keep defenses from sagging off him. He’s tall enough to see over defenses and he’s the humble hard working kid you would want to build your franchise around.
But Wall’s going to be the No. 1 pick, that you can count on. The fact that he’s two years younger than Turner and the talk of college basketball world will allow him to be a crowd filler wherever he goes. However, a remarkable college season should land Turner the Player of the Year award and a selection in the top three of June’s NBA Draft
It’s unfortunate that Turner has to sit in the background while Wall gets all the pub but that’s the difference when you play for John Calipari and the Kentucky Wildcats and Thad Matta and the Ohio State Buckeyes. Turner may not be the headlining name of the NCAA but when it comes to collegiate basketball, he might just be the best player.