Kentucky freshman John Wall broke the record for assists in a game by a Kentucky Wildcat, a record that had been held by Travis Ford, with his 16 assist performance in Kentucky's blowout of Hartford.
Kentucky head coach John Calipari used his prized freshman's fabulous first half perrformance to impress upon his teammates the importance of playing as a team.
"At halftime, he was 11-and-0 (assist-to-turnovers) and what I said to the team was that in a game like this he could try to score 30 points and not pass you all the ball and none of us would really say anything," said the Kentucky coach.
Calipari explained why Wall was re-inserted into the game with the big lead in the second half.
"In the end, and I normally don't do it, but they told me he needed two more for the record so I stuck him back in and ran everything that I could to get him to pass it to somebody to get him the two and get him out of the game. I did it because it is a game where he could have tried to have 30 points but he chose not to and pass to his teammates. That is why I did it."
Calipari was asked about Wall's attitude, an attitude that led to the 16 assist performance.
Calipari answered the question and discussed the value of sharing the ball, "(John) is a pleaser. He will defer to his team. We had 30 assists. We shoot the ball well, but we had 30 assists. The reason we shoot such a high percentage is because we had so many easy plays. My thing is to get on the guys to just make easy plays. Don't try to make hero plays. Don't try to throw look-away passes if you don't have to. Throw it to the guy where he can handle it and make a basket. They are trying, I think that our team is getting better and I think that individual players are getting better. They only way that your team can get better is if individual players get better.
"DeMarcus (Cousins) was a beast. That is what he was. John (Wall) did his thing. We still have to defend better at a couple of positions. We are not doing a great job at defending a couple of positions so we need to get better."
Sophomore Darnell Dodson discussed Wall's game changing abilities.
Dodson said, "He's real quick. On one-on-one situations, he's able to go past people real easily. He's also got a high IQ for the game. If someone helps out on defense, he knows when to pass it or keep it or throw it up to the big men."
Wall was asked about his performance, if his passing ability is overlooked.
Wall said, "Yeah, but it doesn't matter to me. As long as I know I'm making the right passes and my teammates are making shots then that's all that really matters to me."
Was Wall happier with the 16 assists, or having only a single turnover?
"I'm happy for both of them. This (assists) is something I have been working on. Coach has been doing drills with us in practice. Hopefully, I can keep this up and not have many turnovers when we play bigger teams because that's something I need to lower in my stats."
The frosh discussed his efforts to get others involved, and credited the Kentucky staff for their work with him.
The freshman said, "Coach Cal and Coach Strickland are showing me what I need to do to be a point guard. Sometimes I over shoot and over penetrate. So, we went back to a drill we did in the beginning of the season of over penetrating and kicking the ball out at the right time. I came into the game and tried to get shots, but I saw the defense and they were not going to let me get my shots off. So, I said, ‘what's the point of forcing it and making it a harder game than it is.' Just make it an easy game for my teammates and for me. I was finding open people and they were making shots."
Hartford Head Coach Dan Leibovitz was impressed with Wall.
Leibovitz said of Wall, "I think like everybody else, I'm very impressed with John Wall. It's not just his visibility, which speaks for itself, but I just like the way he carries himself. He seems to be a good teammate, he seems to be someone who is respectful of referees, respectful of the game, and obviously I think he has a bright future here and beyond. It all starts with him and everybody game-plans to stop him in transition. You have to commit two people to him. He is that good."
John Wall was getting into gaps and creating things. I just haven't seen too many people get so many dunks and lobs. I think they'll see some bigger zones and I think they'll see a lot of them. But they attacked it pretty well and it's clear that they've been working on it."
Wall impressive in record setting performance
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