John Wall Details Decision to Commit to John Calipari, Kentucky in 2009

Blake SchusterCorrespondent IIIMay 19, 2020

FILE - In this March 27, 2010, file photo, Kentucky head coach John Calipari, left, talks with guard John Wall during the second half of the game against West Virginia in the East Regional final of the NCAA college basketball tournament. Wall and DeMarcus Cousins delivered on their promise to help coach Calipari return Kentucky to national prominence. (AP Photo/Kevin Rivoli,File)
Kevin Rivoli/Associated Press

John Wall will forever be tied to the University of Kentucky. 

In one season with the Wildcats, the point guard was a consensus first-team All American, SEC Player of the Year and helped reboot a program that had fallen below its own enormous standards. He just never would've landed in Lexington had head coach John Calipari not jumped there first. 

In an interview with 247Sports.com's Evan Daniels, Wall said he was ready to commit to Calipari at Memphis before the coach let him know he was taking the job at Kentucky:

“He called me and told me he was about to change and I was like, ‘That’s fine, I like Kentucky anyway, I loved everything about their fanbase when I took a visit there.' I took a visit there when Billy Gillispie was there, I loved everything about it. I just didn’t want to play with coach Gillispie so I’m like, ‘I’m going to go play at Memphis where Cal is.’ And he called me and I was like, ‘perfect, I don’t even have to take a visit, I already know the atmosphere, I already know how it goes.’”

Wall had a fair reason to be skeptical of Gillispie. In two seasons with Kentucky, he'd taken the program from the NCAA Tournament to the NIT. It was clearly a bad fit for all sides of the equation. 

Enter Calipari, Wall and DeMarcus Cousins. 

After the team's new coach locked up the No. 1 point guard in the country in Wall and the No. 1 forward in Cousins, Kentucky was back in a big way. 

The team went 35-3 in Calipari's first season, making it all the way to the Elite Eight before falling to West Virginia. 

Calipari has remained one of Wall's most ardent defenders, famously going on Colin Cowherd's ESPN radio show to reprimand the host for his continued criticism of the guard's personality.  

Similarly, Wall continues to spread Calipari's gospel, singing the praises of his former coach to Daniels: 

“I think he’s just real. I think he’s just being real. He came to my house, he will go anywhere to go visit you, he doesn’t care if you live in the hood, not in the hood, he’s not scared, he’s pulling up and he probably talked about basketball for like two questions. Do you want to be great? Do you want to make the NBA? That’s it. Everything else is like, ‘how is your life going?’ what do you see yourself doing for your mom and doing for your family?

“He’s really like a father figure to people. He takes you in and he preaches to you about what he thinks you need to do to prepare yourself for where you want to get to.”

It's hard to imagine the two wouldn't have a similar relationship if they had joined forces in Memphis.

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