He hasn’t even been drafted yet, but Kentucky point guard John Wall is quickly becoming one of the most popular pro athletes in Washington, D.C. The Washington Wizards hosted a private 30-minute workout for the Freshman of the Year on Thursday with hordes of front office execs and media hounds on hand watching his every move.
With cameras flashing and presidents and owners nodding their heads in approval, Wall showcased the trademark quickness and athleticism that has him projected to become the Wizards’ No. 1 overall selection in the first round of the NBA Draft on June 24.
Following instructions from Wizards head coach Flip Saunders and assistant coach Sam Cassell, Wall raced up the court doggedly as he nailed runners in the lane and sliced through the air for dunks. A few free throws here, some ball handling drills there and Wall had the look of a top prospect as he completed each drill with effortless flair.
The only thing easier than Wall’s workout was the endless amount of questions he answered calmly, at times jokingly, from a large media turnout.
“If the Wizards pick me I’ll come in and try to help the team the best way I can,” Wall said when asked about his expectations for next season. “Your first year you have to learn a lot. I know that I’m not going to come in and be the best player in the world and come in and not have [any] ups and downs. I’m just preparing myself for that. You [have] to be mentally prepared for that type of stuff.”
While Washington general manager Ernie Grunfeld and new team owner Ted Leonsis have yet to give any indication that Wall will indeed be the top selection, their presence on Thursday went a long way into providing some type of premonition. Considering that Evan Turner—the draft’s projected second overall prospect—refused to workout for the Wizards this past week, the chances of Wall becoming the top selection increases by the day.
“He is certainly a very talented player and there is consensus if you go across the board that he would be the first pick,” Leonsis said.
Despite a tumultuous season for the Wizards, Leonsis admitted that earning the draft’s top selection is just part of the process that helps teams turn their fortunes around.
“Sometimes you have to be bad to be good,” he said with a smile.
If drafted first overall, Wall will join Derrick Rose and Allen Iverson as the only point guards taken with the top overall selection in the last 30 years. Ideal company for the 19-year-old who grew up idolizing Iverson and mentions Rose as one of his favorite players in the league.
“Growing up, everybody liked Allen Iverson,” Wall recalled. “Little kid with braids, tough, had a crossover. Now, I like guys like LeBron (James), Derrick Rose [and] Chris Paul.”
Wall will get a chance to join the likes of his heroes on June 24 when the highly coveted prospect will be a trendy name, even if Washington elects to go in a different direction. The popular Wall has gained so much acclaim over the last few years that it would be amazing if he’s not chosen No. 1.
Although Wall isn’t sure himself of where he’ll land come draft night, he’s just enjoying the moment.
“It’s a dream come true,” Wall kept repeating during a 20-minute press conference. “Three years ago I didn’t have any of this. I was just a regular basketball player.”
Judging by Thursday’s media turnout, it’s safe to say no one in Washington will be expecting Wall to be ‘just a regular basketball player’ come next season.