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John Wall awaits NBA draft, eyes No. 1 pick by Washington Wizards

By Michael Lee
Saturday, June 5, 2010; D02

LOS ANGELES -- As a freshman at Kentucky, John Wall learned to avoid autograph and cellphone picture seekers by looking down and wearing oversize headphones. But in Los Angeles, a city that consumes famous people, Wall has found a place where he can claim some relative anonymity before the Washington Wizards likely make him the No. 1 overall pick on June 24.

Wall commutes between his apartment near the Grove and a gym in Reseda, where he works out for five to six hours a day lifting weights, grinding through speed and agility drills and shooting hundreds of jumpers. He said he spends most of his spare time playing NBA2K10 on XBox or watching DVDs -- and waiting for draft day.

Wall recently chose agent Dan Fegan, who represents Spanish point guard phenom Ricky Rubio and once had Gilbert Arenas as a client, to represent him, but he understands he has no choice over which NBA team selects him. He has yet to receive assurances from the Wizards about whether they'll take him first, but multiple league sources have said that this is Washington's intention.

"I hope so," Wall said in an interview. "That's your dream come true, to go number one."

In a conversation with Wizards Coach Flip Saunders two weeks ago in Chicago, Wall said Saunders told him that he would let Wall run the offense as point guard.

"I heard [Saunders] likes guards that can score. He helped Chauncey Billups get better and Stephon Marbury. I'm just going to try to go in there and be like those guys," Wall said. "For me to be the type of player I want to be, I have to have the ball in my hands."

Wall said that Saunders told him the Wizards would move Arenas from point guard to the No. 2 guard slot. "They feel like Gilbert is more a scoring two-guard who can shoot very well and get to the basket," Wall said. "To have two guards in the back court like that would be very dangerous."

After being an unheralded player who got cut from his high school team as a sophomore, mostly for his attitude, Wall admitted that he is somewhat shocked by how much his life has changed and will change once NBA Commissioner David Stern announces that he has been drafted.

"To be in the situation you're in, at 15, not having nothing, then all of a sudden, you can help turn around a franchise -- that's a big thing," said Wall, who recently had courtside seats -- next to San Diego Chargers Coach Norv Turner -- to watch Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals. "I always dreamed of being at an NBA game. But to be courtside and see one of the greatest players, that's overwhelming -- and next year, I'll be playing against him. That's crazy. It's still amazing and unbelievable."

Wall has maintained a low profile in Los Angeles. There was one time, though, when he walked around a shopping center near his apartment with a friend wearing his "chill mode" outfit (plain white T-shirt, shorts and flip-flops) and was recognized. "Little kids and grown people was about to have a heart attack," Wall said. "But they're used to so many celebrities here, I won't get hacked. I get stopped every now and then, but it's not too bad."

If the Wizards take him first, Wall said he won't be intimidated by the challenge of leading a franchise seeking to overcome back-to-back losing seasons that made it twice eligible for the NBA draft lottery.

"I'm always ready. I had challenges my whole life. Every time I step on the court for AAU or high school or college, people always said: 'You're not that good. You're not number one,' " Wall said. "They are saying everything to see if they can get through my mind. That's going to be the key, to see if I can fight through the mental stuff."

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