RALEIGH, N.C. – To say John Wall maximized his summer experience wouldn't do him justice. The 6-foot-3 athletic point guard out of Raleigh (N.C.) Word of Good, took the circuit by storm.
Before taking his D-I Sports squad deep into the playoffs at the Reebok Summer Championships, Wall set the stage for his Vegas act with a command performance of speed, style and athleticism at the inaugural Reebok U. Camp.
"When I first got to Philly I was ready to play but I was nervous," Wall said. "I heard all the big names and I knew I was going to have to guard them to get my name out there. After the first couple of minutes in the first game I felt the flow of it. I didn't slow it down unless I had to and that's what I did. It worked out very well."
Worked out well? Another understatement. Probably half of the ACC was in his gym last week including locals North Carolina, North Carolina State and Wake Forest. Miami's Frank Haith stopped by Monday night with Virginia Tech and more has either come or are on the way. In between hosting high-powered programs like Memphis, Wall slipped out of the state for a rendezvous with Kentucky last weekend. He was on hand when the ‘Cats outlasted the Cardinals.
"I think they had already offered me; it went well," Wall said of the trip.
So where did this guy come from? The Garner, N.C., native has always been a hot name regionally but it wasn't until the tail end of last year's high school season that he began putting the pieces in place for the summer explosion. He's now ranked as Scout.com's No. 12 prospect in his class.
Wall talks candidly about his transformation from prospect to player and how his high school and traveling team coaches helped lay the foundation for the change in his game and attitude on and off the court.
"I don't think I was ready mentally," Wall said. "I had the game but I wasn't mentally ready for it. Since I was working with (Word of God) Coach Beckwith, Brian (Clifton) and Tony (Edwards) they got me mentally ready for the summer.
"I wasn't strong enough. I didn't have the IQ to play. Some of the plays I made like passing it extra, I would have (in the past) tried forcing the shot instead of making the extra pass."
Wall took their advice, heeded the warnings, calmed himself down and came up with a new approach. The kid once thought to be a little hot headed regularly draws praise from the college coaches for being approachable, coachable and enjoyable to cultivate a relationship with during the initial stages of the recruiting process.
"When I was little I used to get frustrated over every little thing. If my teammates weren't making shots, I'd get an attitude and then stopped my whole game. It helped us lose. Then, ever since I got to Word of God and learned a little Christian stuff … every time I made a mistake they'd take me out. Then, they would make me stay in and try and play through it.
"Now, everybody is telling me I need to get focused for college and get my grades ready. Some people are telling me I can go to college for one year and done and I'm really trying to focus on my game even more. I know people take time off (from workouts) but working with Coach Beckwith he makes me come to the gym."
During a workout last week, Wall was impressive. His athleticism sets him apart from his peers. Not too many lead guards catch it a step off the block, bounce it once and reverse dunk. He's got T.J. Ford speed with the ball and the intent to hammer it down if he beats his guy off the bounce. One of the gentlemen in the gym the night of the workout had first hand knowledge of Dwyane Wade. He saw improvement as a player during his run at Marquette and noted the similarities. In fact, the Wade comparison is one Wall himself prefers.
"The person I like to play like is Dwyane Wade. He went through the same kind of stuff that I went through. He's athletic but he couldn't shoot. Then he worked on it so hard which is what I'm trying to do and now he can shoot pretty good."
The shot will come for Wall because he's addressing it. Beckwith runs him through sound drills focused on long term objectives. Simply put: the kid is talented enough to take an area that needs improvement, focus on it and iron out the kinks. Regardless, the guy's a nightmare to try and guard – he gets where he wants, when he wants on the floor.
Wall's pursuers are coming hard. Aside from the in-state and regional programs that are probing heavily, Oklahoma State, Ohio State, Kansas, Kentucky and Indiana are going to recruit him. The N.C. State Wolfpack beat the posse last spring and got after him hot and heavy following his performances at the Bob Gibbons Tournament of Champions.
"I like all the schools in-state," a diplomatic Wall said. "I think some of the schools in-state play the way I play and I think some of the schools out of state play that way. The ACC schools play that way because they like to push it."
Nowadays, Wall notes everything when it comes to the schools on his list. "What's important to me is going and seeing a practice (to see who pushes it). I know coaches are going to yell at players but I want to see if coaches let their players play through a mistake and play the way I like to play."
Wall's got two things a lot of kids' value: talent and a chance. Nowadays, he's making the most of both.