John Wall: A whirlwind day in New York before his big night at the NBA draft

Likely number one overall pick John Wall discusses his career at Kentucky, the leadership skills he learned, and his transition to the NBA in a press conference prior to the draft.
By Michael Lee
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, June 24, 2010

NEW YORK -- Ten-year-old Jordan Reid spotted John Wall and didn't hesitate to wrap his arms around Wall's waist to give him a hug. Reid then latched himself to Wall's hip, walking side-by-side with his favorite basketball player down the court at Madison Square Garden. He told Wall how much he enjoyed Wall's left-handed dunk against Indiana; how he remembers watching Wall dominate Connecticut in this arena last December; how the walls in his bedroom are covered with pictures and magazine covers of the former Kentucky point guard.

Wall, 19, could only chuckle as the kid rattled off Wall's statistics and career highlights, as if they were news to Wall. As he walked past an observer, Wall smiled and said, "This kid is really hyper." Asked later if had a favorite player in the NBA, Reid, a native of Port Washington, N.Y., grinned sheepishly and said: "Nobody. I just like John Wall."

After Thursday, Wall will immediately become Reid's favorite NBA player when the Washington Wizards, as expected, select him first overall and initiate the rebuilding process around the 19-year-old phenom who already has a signature shoe and a signature dance move. Wall understands that with the hype comes considerable expectations, but he is looking forward to the challenge.

"My biggest concern? Going there and being a bum," Wall said. "You don't want to be a draft pick that should have did something but never did nothing. For me, it's about working hard and getting better. I got the will to win. I've got good character. I'm a winner off the court. I'll do anything I can for the team and in the community."

Wall already had an eventful day on Wednesday, as he started his morning by being introduced as the new face of Reebok, a shoe company that also sponsors Washington Capitals star Alex Ovechkin but has been relatively dormant with basketball in recent years. Seeking a different identity after having a lengthy relationship with former league most valuable player Allen Iverson, Reebok signed Wall to a five-year deal worth a reported $25 million earlier this month. "Based on his athletic way of play, his charisma on the court as much as his personality off the court, there is only one," Reebok President Uri Becker said. "It's not about quantity for us, it's about the right fit and there is only one player that we think we can work with well over the long term and that's John."

Wall essentially said he chose Reebok out of loyalty after the company provided the first platform three years ago at the prestigious Breakout Camp for him to go from a relative unknown from Raleigh, N.C., to a player considered the best prospect in this draft. "LeBron, Kobe, Derrick Rose and Dwight Howard, those guys are very marketable to the companies and brands they signed with. I wanted to be like that. Reebok gave me an opportunity to have a commercial and have my own shoe, so that's what I looked into. I felt it was the best situation for me at the time," Wall said. "They had a great game plan about how they would market me. I talked to my mom about it and she felt like it was the best situation for me."

Wall was asked where he already ranks among the elite point guards in the league. "Right now, I wouldn't put myself in no top because I haven't established myself on that level. I feel like I have a chance to be one of those top 10, top three guys," he said at the charity event, where he wore a nondescript sticker with his name on it affixed to an NBA Cares polo shirt. "Until I prove myself on the NBA level, I can't put myself in no category."

How soon does he expect that to happen? "A year," Wall said. "It's going to have to take a lot of hard work, dedication and study how teams are going to play you. Basically working on my game."

Wall has a chance to become the first Kentucky player to be drafted No. 1 overall, a statistic that stunned him considering the long and storied basketball tradition of that university. The Wizards still have not informed Wall that he will be their choice, but he came away with that impression after working out for them in Washington last week. Although there is little suspense with where he's headed, Wall admitted that he's still a little uneasy. "I'm excited, at the same time a little nervous," Wall said. "I probably won't get any sleep. You got to have the butterflies. It's a dream come true to be in this situation."

Wall said he doesn't know what he's going to wear, because his mother, Frances Pulley, selected the wardrobe for him. "Since her birthday was Monday I let her pick it out, so she didn't let me see it. I hope it's good," Wall said.

Wall was asked if he plans on doing his dance -- in which he lifts his right arm like a tea kettle and rocks his fist back and forth -- after shaking hands with NBA Commissioner David Stern. "I don't know," he said. "I got to ask him for that. I don't know if he'll allow me to do it. But that's all I've been getting on Twitter and text messages, 'Are you going to do the dance?' "

Asked if he's prepared for more kids like Reid, Wall said, "I never had a chance to be around NBA players at his age, but if I would've had the opportunity, I would've been the same way."

© 2010 The Washington Post Company