Wizards point guard John Wall found himself at center court again Saturday, but this time, there was no basketball in his hands. Instead, Wall held a backpack.
Still, he was racking up assists, helping six-year-old Kaleb Franklin and nearly 300 other elementary and middle school students wiggle into their new backpacks full of supplies during his foundation’s “Back 2 School” event at the FBR Branch of the Boys & Girls Club in Washington.
“These kids might be excited to see me, but I’m more excited to see them,” Wall said. “They put a bigger smile on my face knowing that I’m making their day or their year.”
Boys & Girls Club regional vice president Michael McDonald opened the event Saturday morning but quickly admitted to the crowd, “I know you’re not here to see me.”
He got applause from the parents in attendance when he mentioned the school supplies that Wall and the John Wall Foundation would give away, but the biggest ovation came when Wall was introduced as a two-time all-star. Mascot G-Wiz’s entrance came in second.
Wall did not speak for long before handing out the backpacks and spending a moment with each child, but he did tell the crowd that he was excited to be at the event because he would have liked to have received school supplies when he was growing up.
A North Carolina native, Wall said he was the first in his family to attend college. He held a similar “Back 2 School” event in Raleigh recently.
“I just always want to tell the kids that they can dream and believe in their abilities or whatever they want to do in this world and also make sure they get their education first,” Wall said after the event.
The charity efforts are part of a busy offseason for the five-year vet. Wall was on the cover of Kicks Magazine, showing off his new signature shoes, and he has been to Las Vegas to train with Team USA and to watch the Wizards’ summer league team. Meanwhile, he has recovered from five fractures in his left hand and wrist that he said are now healed.
Saturday, Wall said he thought the Wizards could have made the Eastern Conference finals, at least, if he were healthy, and he now has his goals set on “trying to get to the championship.”
“You can always say this would have happened if that didn’t happen, but my main goal is just to come in a better player than I was last year,” Wall said. “Every year we are just taking the right steps and getting better, but at certain times you only got a certain short window where you’ve got to find a way to get over that hump, and hopefully this is the year to get over the hump.”
Wall went on to point out the leap Golden State made last year en route to an NBA title and said “the windows are open.”
For now, though, Wall said he is doing a lot of running and physical therapy work and also enjoying the opportunity to give back to communities in D.C. and North Carolina. When asked, he said he enjoys these volunteering opportunities more than an early-season NBA win.
“The NBA is what I love to do, I love playing the game of basketball,” Wall said. “But whenever I can put smiles on these families’ faces and take the pressure off some of the parents that don’t have to buy backpacks and buy school supplies and help these kids — all they got to do now is go in there and get an education and get their work done.”