John Wall almost didn’t go to Kentucky

John Wall Washington Wizards
Photo: Brandon Wade/Associated Press

John Wall was a standout in his lone season at Kentucky, but he almost committed to play for coach John Calipari at Memphis.

In an interview with 247Sports’ Evan Daniels, Wall said he was ready to commit to Calipari at Memphis before coach let him know he was taking the job at Kentucky.

Calipari had to navigate which prospects he wanted to bring with him.

“He called me and told me he was about to change and I was like, ‘That’s fine, I like Kentucky anyway, I loved everything about their fanbase when I took a visit there,'” Wall said. “I took a visit there when Billy Gillispie was there, I loved everything about it. I just didn’t want to play with coach Gillispie so I’m like, ‘I’m going to go play at Memphis where Cal is.’ And he called me and I was like, ‘perfect, I don’t even have to take a visit, I already know the atmosphere, I already know how it goes.'”

Not long after that call, Wall and his future college teammate DeMarcus Cousins were selected to the Nike Hoop Summit.

At the event, they were teammates with Xavier Henry, who committed to Calipari at Memphis.

“I was playing with Xavier [Henry] and Xavier was a talented player but he was just shooting the ball so much, so mad he wasn’t getting the ball, I called Cal up and was like, ‘Cal when you switch to Kentucky, if he’s coming, I promise I won’t go,'” Wall explained. “I told him that straight up. I told him I can’t go because … DeMarcus [Cousins], E-Bled [Eric Bledsoe] and all of these guys are about to sacrifice and he has to sacrifice, we’re not going to get a lot of shots. We all are used to averaging over 25 or more on our team and we’re not about to be like that and I don’t think he could buy into that.”

Henry ultimately went on to play for Kansas.

“I think if Xavier would have went then I would’ve ended up going to Miami,” Wall admitted.

Wall told Daniels that his relationship with Calipari is strong to this day and why elite recruits want to play for him.

“I think he’s just real. I think he’s just being real,” Wall said. “He came to my house, he will go anywhere to go visit you, he doesn’t care if you live in the hood, not in the hood, he’s not scared, he’s pulling up and he probably talked about basketball for like two questions. Do you want to be great? Do you want to make the NBA? That’s it. Everything else is like, ‘how is your life going?’ what do you see yourself doing for your mom and doing for your family?”

Wall continued, “He’s really like a father figure to people. He takes you in and he preaches to you about what he thinks you need to do to prepare yourself for where you want to get to.”

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