One Last Note from Raleigh
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One Last Note from Raleigh

Bomani Jones05/20/09


Article written by:Bomani JonesBomani Jones


Beautiful people, it’s been too long.  When I was here last, I’d demoted you from Big Blue to just Blue.  Now, I wonder if “Big Blue” is even saying enough.  We’ll stick with it, though.  I like alliteration.

Anyway, I’d like to thank you for toughening up our server.  Under the weight of your rabid fandom, our server will only grow stronger.  For us, John Wall has been a sort of high-altitude training.  And also, thanks to all of you that have taken the time to listen to my radio program.  I can’t say how much I appreciate it when we have a caller from Kentucky.

Now, my real business here — The John Wall presser.

First of all, it was boring.  Bordered on mind-numbingly boring.  Just about every word Wall said was borderline scripted.  Even responses to questions were rehearsed.  Seriously, who remembers the exact date that text messaging from coaches became verboten?  Nobody close to Wall was going to let him step out of line or, more importantly, let the media folks step out of line.

Don’t blame them on that one.  Wall’s been the victim of reckless dry snitchin’, folks saying they heard he was this and that, but offering no actual proof.  I couldn’t imagine being 18 years old and having to deal with a world that thinks they know me because of how many schools I went to and the behavior of grown people around me that, clearly, I have little control over.  The way Wall was treated in my market was embarrassing, and it’s the reason Pastor Summerfield and the folks at Word of God kept everything so tight.

The shame of it for us voyeurs was that we didn’t get to see much of who John Wall is and how he’s feeling.  Perhaps it’s his lack of self-confidence that stopped his personality from coming through, but all you found out from that presser was that he’s coming to Kentucky.

Here’s what I saw after the press conference — a guy really, really happy to be going to Kentucky.

You could tell after the conference a weight was off him.  This recruitment, that EVERYONE is glad is OVER, seemed to take its toll on him.  Even the decision to go to Kentucky came with the subsequent weight of having to tell those that disagreed with his decision, something that was taxing for a guy that, by his own admission, aims to please.  When the cameras left, it was finally over.

I stood talking to his high school coach, Levi Beckwith, after the presser.  C.J. Leslie — who is every bit of 6-8, and probably 6-9 — walked in the gym.  Then comes this loud, loud voice…


I knew that tone of voice.  That tone comes when you’re gassed and there’s no good reason not to be.  It was interesting for me to hear.  After spending months keeping tabs on him and the ups and downs of this process, that was the first time any of this seemed enjoyable to him.  Yeah, he liked the attention early, but the fun attention went away a long time ago.

Now, the fun attention is back.  There he was, with no one asking questions or recording, where the ramifications of his words didn’t matter.  ‘Twas him in his own world.  Right now, that world’s a good place to be, and it sounded like it.  

Here’s what I can tell you about Wall’s game — there’s significant room for improvement.  His jumper, which is mechanically flawed to say the least, will get the treatment this summer.  He also will get his first real acquaintance with weight training.

The biggest thing — John Wall, by all accounts, still has no idea how good he is.  That he didn’t want to consider the NBA Draft because he didn’t think he was good enough says a lot.  Name the last time a guy with his talent, enough talent to be considered in the Top 5 of his class by most people that matter, didn’t think he was ready for the NBA.  Go ahead.

Basketball players carry themselves with a certain swagger.  It’s part and parcel of stardom in this game.  Right now, Wall doesn’t have that.  His vibe borders on gentle.

Wall outworks everyone on the court, but he still doesn’t quite get it.  Being at Kentucky, surrounded by so much talent and in a place that is certain to treat him like he’s colder than ice, may have a positive effect on his confidence as both a man and a basketball player.

See how good he is without knowing it?  Imagine when he finally understands that he’s going to be the most talented player on the floor in most games at the next level, too.  And he’s bigger than everyone else (his 6-4 seems legitimate, seeing how I claim the same and he’s my height).

You got the beast of the class, and the beast has serious upside.

Have fun, Blue.  It seems you’re Big again.

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