John Wall usually takes time after practice to put up some extra shots or do ballhandling drills, and then he heads to the training room for ice and treatment. The process usually leaves Wall as one of the last players to leave the locker room, an hour or so after the team breaks huddle.
On Monday, Wall was among the first players to leave the practice court and emerged from the locker room about five minutes later in a Wizards sweat suit. As he hurriedly walked down the hallway, with a gold backpack and two huge boxes, Wall was asked how he felt about Kentucky advancing to the NCAA title game to face Connecticut.
“I’m going,” Wall said, stopping to autograph a few posters. He then rushed to the airport to catch a flight to Dallas to watch his beloved Wildcats.
Wall’s one regret from his lone season at Kentucky is that he was unable to lead the school to its eighth NCAA championship before leaving and becoming the first overall draft pick in 2010. Two years later, Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist were able to get John Calipari his first title but Wall was disappointed that he couldn’t attend, much less watch the whole game because the Wizards had to play Milwaukee.
With the Wizards not playing until Wednesday, Wall took advantage of the chance to watch Calipari go for his second championship with a team that Wall actually picked to be eliminated by Wichita State in the round of 32. Wall explained that he was using his choice as a motivational tactic and has been pleasantly surprised to see the eighth-seeded Wildcats go on an incredible run behind another star-studded freshman class featuring Julius Randle and the hero of the past three games, Aaron Harrison.
After Harrison sent Kentucky the Final Four with a huge three-pointer in a win against Michigan, Wall said: “That’s the best shot. You wish it was for a national championship, but when you hit a game-winner, especially a March Madness moment, that big-time? That shot goes down in history for him.”
Harrison hit another game-winner against Louisville and sent the Wildcats into the title game with another clutch three-pointer Saturday against Wisconsin in the final seconds.
Now Wall gets to watch Kentucky’s season come around full circle: The Wizards played a preseason game at Rupp Arena against Davis and the New Orleans Hornets last October, which gave Wall the chance to attend Big Blue Madness, the team’s spectacular midnight practice. Calipari used the event as an opportunity to praise Wall for donating $1 million of his salary to charity after signing an $80 million extension last August.
“C’mon now,” Calipari said recently. “That made me more proud than him getting a contract.”
NOTE: Trevor Ariza sat out Monday’s practice while recovering from the flu.