On Saturday, December 5th, two top 15 teams met at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky for one of the most anticipated match-ups of this early college basketball season. North Carolina came in ranked #11, with 7 wins and its lone loss coming to Syracuse in the Coaches vs. Cancer Tournament. Kentucky was #4, boasting a 7-0 record. Although both teams were young, many questioned whether Kentucky could match North Carolina's depth. UNC can go about ten or eleven deep including 8 sophomores and freshmen contributing; Kentucky has three freshman players in its starting five and another coming off the bench for major minutes.
There were several key match-ups and players that scouts and NBA personnel were looking forward to seeing, including Kentucky's All-SEC Power Forward and All-American candidate Patrick Patterson and Freshman stud DeMarcus Cousins battling against UNC's Bigs: potential top-five NBA Draft pick, Ed Davis, Deon Thompson, Tyler Zeller. NBA personnel wanted to get a glimpse of world-renowned Kentucky Point Guard John Wall going head-to-head with another lightning quick Guard in Larry Drew II. Other scouts were on hand to see North Carolina's Freshman Wing, John Henson, and Kentucky's Freshman Combo Guard Eric Bledsoe. But in the end, it was John Wall who stole the show. Some front offices already had Wall punched in as a top-two pick in the 2010 NBA Draft with some consideration going to Georgia Tech's Freshman Forward Derrick Favors, but it seemed as it Wall left the Kentucky-North Carolina game leading his team to victory and securing the probably that he would be selected #1 overall in June.
NBA-Draft.com has had John Wall as their #1 prospect as soon as the 2009 NBA Draft came to a close, and he further separated himself from the rest of his draft class this past Saturday afternoon. In less than 8 minutes, Wall led his team on a 28-2 run, including holding UNC to 1-17 from the field and quite a few turnovers during that span. With Kentucky down 9-2 before the first Media timeout, Wall grabbed Will Graves missed jumper and took off running. He took it the length of the court- shaking Larry Drew with an exceptional and untouchable low-to-right cross-over and finished in the lane with a thunderous dunk. Every single fan in Rupp Arena jumped to their feet to cheer and scream in excitement. Less than a minute later, Wall corralled a lose ball, accelerated down the court, splitting two UNC defenders and finished with a spectacular lay-up at the other side of the rim.
In that one minute span, Wall showed everyone in attendance and watching on television why he deserved to be selected #1 in the 2010 NBA Draft. He boasts extreme athleticism and explosiveness with great size, standing at 6'4" and 185 pounds. He has rare speed with his ball in hands, almost as if he has another gear to shift into, that helps him excel in transition. But even in the half-court, defenders are hedging off their own men in anticipation for Wall to drive by his own man and into the lane. On several separate times down the floor, the Kentucky Point Guard left Drew in the dust, shaking him with one of his great ball moves, drove the lane, only to pass out to a wide open Wing for an open jumper. His ability to set up teammates via his penetrate-and-kick ability or find an open big with one of his crafty passes is remarkable. At just 19 years old, Wall showed great poise and presence during the Kentucky-North Carolina match-up, knowing when to run in transition and when to slow it down and run the Wildcat's half-court offense.
After the game, Kentucky Head Coach John Wall gave his Point Guard reiterated the ultimate complement (when he initially stated during the SEC's Media Day in October)- that at this point, Wall was much further along than former Calipari Guards Derrick Rose (selected #1 overall in 2008) and Tyreke Evans (selected #4 overall in 2009).
With UConn coming up on the schedule this week, look for the John Wall - Kemba Walker match-up, and once conference play begins in January, Wall will continue to show he is worthy of the #1 pick in 2010 or if he slips as his turnovers continue to pile up and outside shooting gets worse.