Highly touted Wall picks Kentucky
Top point guard recruit John Wall has told Kentucky coach John Calipari that he will sign with the Wildcats, ending a highly publicized courtship with the game-changing player.
Wall, ranked the No. 1 point guard, No. 5 overall, in the ESPNU 100, informed Miami coach Frank Haith on Tuesday morning that he had committed to Kentucky. The reasoning, according to a source, was because he just wanted to play for Calipari.
"It's an exciting offense; I like the way coach Calipari has the point guard doing a lot of work," Wall told ESPNRISE.com's Chris Lawlor on Tuesday.
If Calipari had stayed as coach at Memphis, there would have been no drama in Wall's commitment. Privately, Calipari was convinced Wall would have chosen the Tigers, but the coach's departure to Kentucky created a soap opera in the renewed recruiting chase.
Adding another chip
Top 2009 recruit John Wall's commitment to Kentucky is the latest development in a remarkable stretch for John Calipari, writes Paul Biancardi of Scouts Inc. Story
Wall teased Duke, and actually gave Miami an informal commitment last week, according to a source close to the situation. But ultimately, the Word of God Christian Academy playmaker out of Raleigh, N.C., didn't stray from his original plan: He chose to play for Calipari; it's just that the pursuit for a national title will be out of Lexington instead of Memphis.
Kentucky adds Wall to another top-10 recruit, 6-foot-9 DeMarcus Cousins of LeFlore (Mobile, Ala.).
Wall and Cousins have said they would have signed with Calipari at Memphis.
"It's a new beginning for all of us; there's a lot of talent," Wall said.
Wall was impressed by Calipari's work at Memphis, especially the last two years, with 2009 NBA Rookie of the Year Derrick Rose of the Chicago Bulls and All-America guard Tyreke Evans, who declared for the NBA draft after one season.
"Coach Calipari pushes his players, and that's why his teams are successful," Wall said. "Some compare me to Derrick Rose, and that's a compliment. In the last two years, he's helped Derrick and Tyreke become top-10 picks in the NBA draft. He's helped them reach that level, but I'm reaching my goal of playing college basketball."
According to sources, moving from Memphis to Lexington had been an issue for Wall's adviser, Brian Clifton, who likely will be the one to represent Wall when the player eventually declares for the NBA draft.
A source close to the situation at Duke said multiple times that if Clifton were making the call, Duke would have been selected. But according to sources, Wall made the decision.
"He did his due diligence when it came to recruiting," Clifton told ESPNRISE.com. "He likes Cal's style of play and is excited about the opportunity to display his creativity. John has a chance to take college basketball by storm."
Duke was hoping to be Wall's choice because his mother has had health problems, and the Blue Devils had no issue recruiting a player who is projected to leave after his freshman season.
In the meantime, Wall had strung Miami along after a recruiting visit in late April, feeling comfortable enough with Haith and the team to make the Hurricanes a compromise choice.
Wall would have made Duke an instant title contender and clearly would have elevated Miami into an NCAA tournament team. Florida had made a run at him, but the Gators couldn't get Wall to make a visit.
Earlier in the year, Clifton's brother, Dwon, was hired as director of player development at Baylor, creating a stir.
Wall even had made two unofficial visits to Kentucky when Billy Gillispie was still the coach.
Calipari was the most consistent presence in the recruiting process. All that's left now for Kentucky is to see whether the team's leading scorer and potential SEC preseason player of the year Jodie Meeks will withdraw from next month's NBA draft. But even without Meeks, the Wildcats now have the pieces to challenge Kansas and Michigan State, among others, for the national title.
Sophomore Patrick Patterson, arguably the top returning forward in the SEC, decided May 8 to withdraw from the draft. Patterson will be joined inside by highly touted newcomers Cousins, Daniel Orton and Darnell Dodson.
Kentucky signed point guard Eric Bledsoe out of Birmingham last week; Bledsoe also had been coveted by Memphis. Wall and Bledsoe could give the Wildcats two ball handlers who will be tough to disrupt if they play together.
If you toss in Meeks, who averaged 23.7 points a game last season, the Wildcats will have as much production possible on the perimeter as any team in the country. Wall can elevate at the point as few playmakers can and should flourish next to Meeks, should he return.
Meeks is projected as a bubble first-round pick. Wall's commitment might entice him to return to school for a run at a title, after the Wildcats missed making the NCAA tournament in Billy Gillispie's second and final season as coach.
The Wildcats have 16 players on scholarship now, three over the NCAA maximum of 13. Adding Meeks will put the Wildcats at 17. Calipari has said recently that he expects the scholarship situation to work itself out this summer.
Wall is just glad the recruiting process is over.
"If I went to the gym, grocery store or school, everyone was asking me where I was going," Wall said. "It was time to decide; I'm happy with it. I'd like to help get Kentucky back on top."
Andy Katz is a senior writer at ESPN.com. Christopher Lawlor covers high school sports for ESPNRISE.com.