John Wall is accustomed to getting his way. When you’re the No. 1 recruit in the nation, can throw down like a small forward and weave through defenses with an assortment of moves, it’s hard to be stopped.
But despite being one of the most watched prep stars in the country, Wall might have another move in store that would surprise even his closest followers.
ESPN’s Chad Ford first broke the word on Tuesday that the 6-foot-4 point guard might be a part of this year’s NBA Draft class, despite technically still being a high school senior.
Wall, however, is a fifth-year senior and might have some wiggle room for evading the NBA collective bargaining ruling that bars high school players from going straight to the NBA.
He passes the first hurdle because he will be 19 years old in September, but he’ll have to do some finagling to argue that he is a year removed from his class’s graduation as a fifth-year senior.
If he does make it in, then is the NBA ready for John Wall? Better yet, is John Wall ready for the NBA?
In an amateur scouting bid, I went to see Wall last summer at the Pangos All-American camp held at USC. It didn’t take me long to spot Wall. He simply took over every game he played in, despite a wide array of Division-I talent trying to make a name by stopping him.
He looked like he was moving at a different speed and seeing plays and passes develop before they happened.
As the clock ran out on the final play of the camp’s last game, Wall casually tossed the ball off the backboard and elevated far above the rim to slam it home. I was sold.
But Wall has also displayed a malaise that often plagues top-level recruits before they reach the next level. At times he looks as though he is going through the motions, and his body language can be sour if plays don’t develop to his liking.
While he has the body type and skill set to be a pesky defender, the effort is sporadic at best.
It’s not as though NBA scouts will be scared off by these shortcomings. But they do present legitimate concerns about how ready Wall is for the next level.
The point guard position can be tough to project, and it has been especially hard for youngsters like Sebastian Telfair and Shaun Livingston to make the adjustment to the NBA without having played in college.
There are so many demands as the leader of the team, and it’s one of the positions where ego matters. As talented as he was, no one wants to draft the next Stephon Marbury.
In what looks like one of the weakest draft classes in some time, lottery-bound teams have to be salivating over the possible addition of Wall.
But it might be in Wall’s best interest to go the one-and-done route that was originally expected of him. He’ll surely get drafted by a struggling team and will have to grow up quickly if he wants to avoid maligning his new teammates.
While many players gain little in their short time playing college basketball, Wall could get a valuable lesson in humility. Even if he joins a top program, he won’t win every game, and he’ll be forced to learn how to cope with his appointment without becoming a malcontent.
More importantly, he’ll get to face other elite players every so often without the stakes being as high as they are in the NBA.
Wednesday is the first day that Wall can sign with an NCAA team, which remains a distinct possibility. But with a number of schools still vying for him, it’s unlikely any decision will be reached soon.
But in the event he does sneak into the draft, it doesn’t matter whether John Wall is ready for the NBA. But is the NBA ready for John Wall?