Many would laugh off the thought of turning down the opportunity to be a top two pick in the NBA Draft nowadays, but that could be the right move for Kentucky Wildcat point guard John Wall.
The talented youngster has stormed the nation with his stardom, leading the Wildcats to both the SEC regular season and conference tournament titles while going 32-2.
What’s even more impressive is how he led a predominantly young squad for which three of the top four producers were freshmen.
Wall led Kentucky in minutes, points, assists, and steals, but the overall goal for the season was not accomplished, as they fell short of an NCAA title.
After three comfortable wins in the tournament, the Wildcats were eliminated by the West Virginia Mountaineers in the Elite Eight, one step short of the Final Four.
Don’t get me wrong—Wall obviously has the size, speed, athleticism, talent, and potential to join the National Basketball Association immediately, but why not prepare yourself properly before taking the plunge?
Would it really hurt to stay another year in the basketball heaven of Lexington, Kentucky? It’s only one of the most storied prestigious basketball programs in history. On top of that, Wall is already praised and labeled as their hero on campus.
Wall’s mechanics, defense, and shooting could all use some reforming. In college a player of his raw talent and athleticism can get away with several mistakes, but once you're in the NBA, your flaws are brought to the forefront instantly.
Wall needs to show much more dedication to the defensive end, as his length and wingspan can’t do it all without his own maximum effort. Staying another year could help Wall critique this half of his game, which was exposed by West Virginia point guard Joe Mazzulla in Wall’s most recent loss.
Another big exposure of a weakness in Wall’s game was his shooting. It is quite obvious that his touch is nowhere near ready for what would be expected in a player of his caliber. His shooting form is fine, so it’s mostly got to improve through his work ethic and practice.
One of Wall’s key strengths is his ability to penetrate and get to the rim, and even this has some room for development. Wall needs to improve his finishing around the rim, as the defenders are only going to get bigger and better when he advances to the NBA.
In addition, Wall would be taking another step towards his degree, which he surely will want to complete one day in terms of his graduation. There has been plenty of talk about Wall’s excellent educational résumé, so why should he completely ignore this extremely necessary off-court strength of his?
Another season of tooling and experience could be the difference in Wall being a Dwayne Wade-Chris Paul hybrid rather than a Rajon Rondo-Derrick Rose hybrid. Either way, he will still be a fantastic player, but why not help himself take it to a higher level?
Staying another year would be the key to helping Wall take the next step to becoming a star NBA point guard with a complete repertoire, as opposed to solely a raw, athletic, speedy guard who needs to be in transition to execute.
Some will point to Derrick Rose and Tyreke Evans, as they left after their freshmen seasons under John Calipari and are both excelling in the NBA, but Wall has the potential to surpass both of these future stars in the NBA if he doesn’t rush his progression.
There is also a slight doubt that Wall will even be the overall No. 1 selection.
Evan Turner from Ohio State could also be a viable option for whatever team wins the draft lottery—a perfect example of a player who has stayed in college for multiple years to fine-tune his game and develop into the complete versatile player he is.
Coach Calipari is sure to have yet another elite recruiting class coming in next season, and Wall has plenty of time and future years to rise to stardom in the NBA.
The 19-year-old’s competitiveness should fuel Wall to improve his weaknesses over the offseason. He should also be fueled to improve Kentucky’s postseason performance, as it surely has to be a goal of his to reach the Final Four and win a national championship.
Despite all this, all signs are pointing to Wall leaving for the NBA, according to the unofficial plans that have been common knowledge since his debut. But in the long run, there is no need for Wall to scramble away from Lexington so quickly after this disappointing finish to the season.
Either way, no matter what decision John Wall makes, the nation surely will be watching the success of this naturally talented guard for years to come. But it just would be nice to see a player of his caliber take the road less traveled in these times, which would benefit him in the long run on and off the court.