For the sixth straight year, John Wall and his charity foundation hosted a back-to-school backpack giveaway for local children. But Saturday, his latest event felt different because Wall, too, felt like a student longing for a few extra days of summer.
“Back to school? No, I don’t want to talk about ‘back to school,’” Wall groaned. “I just finished my last exam for math this semester.”
The Washington Wizards’ five-time all-star is also a part-time college student. While Wall has spent six months rehabilitating his left Achilles’ tendon injury, he has also taken online classes at the University of Kentucky toward the completion of his business management degree, as well as to honor a wish made by his dying father many years ago.
Before passing out backpacks and posing for photographs at the John Wall Family Foundation event held at a Dave & Buster’s, Wall revealed that he has two years remaining until graduation. In 2010, Wall left Kentucky after playing one season for the Wildcats, and he became the NBA draft’s No. 1 pick.
“One thing I would tell these kids is no matter how much money you make, no matter how much you do — I’m going into my 10th year in the NBA but I’m still going back to school, trying to get my degree,” Wall said. “That’s one thing I promised my mom and my dad, so I just finished my math exam on Thursday before I came here. I wasn’t happy about it. I didn’t like to study, but you got to do what you got to do to get to where you want to be.”
Although Wall has his eyes set on college classes — “Trying to learn some stuff, ya feel me?” he said with a wry smile — his road toward full health isn’t quite as clear.
Recently, Ted Leonsis, the chairman and chief executive of Monumental Sports & Entertainment, said he receives a daily report that lists Wall’s weight as well as a video of his workouts, all part of the team’s more hands-on approach with his rehabilitation. The “every single day” examination continues even on a morning when Wall hosts a charity event.
“I feel like I’m in solitary,” Wall said while grinning. “But, nah, it’s great, man. To have an organization that cares for me and respects me and not try to force me to come back super early, that’s the most important thing, so the whole time when I’m rehabbing, I’m taking my time.”
Wall said he can now jog and get on the court for basketball workouts, but Saturday he sounded unsure about where to place himself on the recovery timeline.
“I don’t know where I’m at. I don’t want to lie to you guys. I always try to be honest with y’all,” Wall said. “I don’t know exactly where I’m at but I know I’m making progress and I’m heading where I’m supposed to be. But I’m not rushing myself back.”
With Wall potentially out for the entire 2019-20 season, the Wizards applied to the NBA for a disabled player exception, which allows a team to sign a free agent, claim a player off waivers or trade for one to replace the injured or recovering player.
Last season, Wall experienced pain from a lingering bone spur issue. By late December, he elected to have season-ending surgery to remove the bone spurs. While in recovery, he partially tore his left Achilles’ tendon. In a shift from previous years, Wall said he’s committed to listening to the advice of the team and medical professionals and not rush back — though he would rather give in to his willful side.
“No, I’m not willing to,” he said when asked whether he’s willing to sit out the entire season, “but that’s what the doctor says, that’s what the team says. I’m finally listening to them and not trying to do my own thing.”
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