Commentary

Kentucky's Wall has our attention

Don't look away; you might miss Wall doing something amazing

Updated: December 16, 2009, 8:02 PM ET
By Scoop Jackson | ESPN.com

If he had a nickname, it would be "The Biz."

He gives opponents the business; he handles his business.

Not Biz Markie, but mark thee as the best N.C. has seen since CP3; Jason Kidd size and speed, EBC imagination.

There's nothing John Wall can't do or thinks he can't do when a ball's in his hands. Around, over, through you. Pick your poison. He's anthrax wit' it. Beyond sick. Killer crossover.

His game stays in transition: always on the move, always growing. He gets up and down the court with ease and poise, a grown kid among boys. He covers 94-by-50 as TMZ does Britney: baseline to baseline, Wall to wall. Get it?

[+] EnlargeJohn Wall and John Calipari
Andy Lyons/Getty ImagesKentucky hit the jackpot with John Wall and John Calipari.

Blink. Gone.

How does someone 6-foot-4, 185 pounds vanish, then reappear only after points are scored, assists are made with a smile on his face that could light up Manhattan?

Blink. Gone.

Another steal. Another dunk. Another highlight.

The prep with a pro game. If the 2010 draft were today, NBAdraft.net and Draftexpress.com say he would be the No. 1 overall pick. So whenever he does decide to enter the league, the minute the commish steps to the podium ... blink, he's gone.

Those descriptions are so last year. So when Wall was in his senior year of high school sitting down with me for an interview. So when he had no idea that he'd be at the University of Kentucky with John Calipari playing for the Wildcats.

At the same time, ain't a damn thing changed almost a year later. Ten games in, he's considered by most to be the best player in college basketball.

He was a kid then on a path to manhood. But he had no idea where he was going. He was a quiet kid whose father died when he was 8 and whose mother had an aneurysm that could have taken her from him, too. He was a kid who was publicly misunderstood, who held the urban hand that life dealt him against himself. He had an internal anger that pushed him to want not simply to find a way out of the financial situation his family was in but to find greatness so that one day something -- a park, a school, a rec center, a library, a road or street -- in his neighborhood would be named after him. That's it. That was his dream.

Since Jan. 7, when John Wall and I talked for no less than four hours, his life has changed. It's been amazing to watch him live past the target on his back as the No. 1 high school player in the country, past the news of charges for breaking and entering a vacant house in Raleigh, N.C., in April, past the single-game suspension he received at Kentucky for accepting travel benefits from his former AAU coach, past the speculation about whether he was worth the investment and whether he could handle and live up to the hype he walked into when he followed Calipari to Lexington.

It was amazing to watch him say "Hello, world" last month with 27 points and nine assists in an exhibition game against Clarion University and follow that up with that 'bout-to-be-Wildcats-folklore winning shot against Miami (Ohio).

And here he is, finding his game, finding himself, separating who he is from other freshman ballers vying for our hearts. Xavier Henry at Kansas, Lance Stephenson at Cincinnati, Avery Bradley and J'Covan Brown at Texas, Kenny Boynton at Florida, Wall's own teammate DeMarcus Cousins.

Of this outstanding group, Wall has captured our attention early, often, instantly. The question is: How long will he be able to hold it?

So far, for me, it's been a year and counting. For others who've known this day would come for Wall, it's been longer. For the rest of the world who read about him as one of the five people ESPN The Mag highlights as "Next" or who saw him score 12 of Kentucky's final 15 points in his first big college game in Madison Square Garden -- a three-point win over UConn and his official coming-out party -- the journey has just begun.

A year ago, Wall's then-AAU coach Brian Clifton asked me who I thought Wall would be if he were in the league. I instantly said, "Jamal Crawford." Then we went on for about an hour talking about how truly special Crawford's game is and how the comparison was a compliment.

After witnessing the first month of the second phase of John Wall's basketball life, I must admit I was wrong. Because seeing John Wall ball now, I can say I haven't seen anyone's game quite like his, I don't know of anybody's future quite like his, and a street named after him in his hometown might be the least of what's about to come his way.

From this point forward, when it comes to John Wall, don't blink.

Scoop Jackson is a columnist for ESPN.com.

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