Wall, Bledsoe to share floor for Cats
John Wall is ready to stop cheerleading and start playing.
The heralded Kentucky freshman will make his long-awaited debut on Monday when the Wildcats (No. 5 ESPN/USA Today, No. 4 AP) take on Miami (Ohio).
Wall was forced to sit out Kentucky's season-opening win over Morehead State last Friday as part of an NCAA suspension for accepting improper benefits from his former AAU coach. He watched from the bench in a sweat suit as fellow freshman guard Eric Bledsoe scored 24 points in a 75-59 victory.
Bledsoe's dynamic debut -- he scored the most points by a Kentucky player in his first game in 30 years -- will be hard to duplicate. Wall doesn't feel the need to top it. That's not his role. Not yet anyway.
"On this team, everybody, one through 13, can make plays," Wall said. "I don't mind giving up the ball, because I have a teammate who can finish."
Morehead State coach Donnie Tyndall marveled at Bledsoe's play against the Eagles, saying simply "if John Wall is better than him, then 'Wow.' "
When Bledsoe signed with the Wildcats, he was viewed as the backup to Wall. Instead they'll find themselves playing alongside each other against the RedHawks (0-1), a decision coach John Calipari described as a no-brainer.
"If you have your two guys, who are your best two players, you figure out how to play them together," Calipari said. "That is what we'll try to do. The greatest thing is they'll have to figure out more than I do."
Don't expect any sort of rivalry between Bledsoe and Wall, however.
While Bledsoe allows he had something to prove after people questioned why he signed with the Wildcats knowing that Wall was penciled in as the lead guard, the two have spent the last few weeks trying to develop the kind of chemistry that takes their egos out of the way.
"It'll be great, both of us are point guards that know the game so it'll take pressure off of us individually," Bledsoe said.
Calipari's message to both players is simple: whoever takes the ball in -- and he has no preference -- will be in charge of getting the Wildcats up the floor as quickly as possible.
"We're going to be running because they're going to get the ball up," forward Ramon Harris said. "That's one thing about John and Eric, they're not selfish with the ball at all. The big men know if they run the floor they're going to get the ball so that's just going to make everybody else run."
Still, the Wildcats weren't exactly sharp against the Eagles. They missed 15 3-pointers and turned it over 24 times. Calipari expects that number to drop significantly with two point guards on the court at the same time.
"Eric had seven turnovers, but the point guard can't have seven turnovers, and we all know that," Calipari said. "Hopefully, with John out there, [Bledsoe] won't turn it over so much."
Calipari can stomach the turnovers if the Wildcats play with a higher level of energy. He groaned following the win over the Eagles that he was going to have nightmares because of a lack of defensive effort, something he never worried about during his final years at Memphis.
"He just told us that we have a lot of work to do," forward Darius Miller said. "We looked sloppy at times. We didn't do everything exactly the way we were supposed to."
Calipari doesn't expect that to happen for several months. He does expect things to run a little smoother with Wall on the court. And for all the hype surrounding Wall, the 6-foot-3 guard considered a can't-miss NBA prospect has been decidedly down to earth since arriving on campus.
Bledsoe admits he expected Wall to be "a jerk" because of his star status. He's been anything but a prima donna. Though Calipari awarded Wall a starting spot on the day practice started, Wall is only too aware that it can be taken away, especially now that it appears the Wildcats can survive and perhaps thrive when he isn't on the floor.
"Just because you start, it doesn't mean your spot can't get taken away," he said.
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press
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