Wall focusing on beating Tar Heels, not payback Print
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Friday, 04 December 2009 13:37
NCAAB Headline News


 LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) -John Wall remembers the conversation vividly, as tends to happen when the coach of the college team you grew up dreaming to play for is on the other end of the line.
Wall said North Carolina coach Roy Williams told him the Tar Heels were still interested in the high school star, and that he'd call again once the NCAA tournament was over.
``He (said) he would call me when it's over and he never called,'' Wall said. ``He never offered me. That's the decision he made.''
One that was difficult for Wall, a native of nearby Raleigh, N.C., who idolized former North Carolina stars Jerry Stackhouse and Vince Carter, to stomach.
Don't get him wrong. The freshman point guard is glad he signed with Kentucky, where he's proved even better than advertised for the fifth-ranked Wildcats (7-0).
ranked Tar Heels (7-1). He is seamlessly fit into coach John Calipari's ``dribble drive'' offense while winning over teammates with his selfless play.
``I think John in the end is a pleaser,'' Calipari said.
Williams never doubted Wall's ability, calling him the best high school point guard prospect since Jason Kidd. While not getting into specifics on why he didn't offer Wall a scholarship, Williams stressed it had nothing to do with Wall's talent.
``I thought he would've been a great player for us, but things just didn't fit,'' Williams said. ``Some shoes don't fit.''
Maybe, but that doesn't mean Wall is completely over it.
Calipari said during the recruiting process some people close to Wall had even hinted he should opt for Duke instead of North Carolina even if the Tar Heels offered him a scholarship.
The questions surrounding Wall's relationship with former AAU coach Brian Clifton may have also been an obstacle for some coaches. Wall was suspended for two games at the start of the season by the NCAA for accepting improper benefits from Clifton - who was briefly a licensed agent - during his junior year of high school.
Williams won't get into the specifics of Wall's recruitment, simply noting he pursued Wall throughout Wall's high school career before opting to go in another direction.
sion not to go any further,'' Williams said.
Wall has tried hard not to take Williams' decision personally, but he hasn't succeeded.
``I kind of took it both ways,'' Wall said. ``I feel like they didn't think I was good enough to play there or took it in a way that they're just moving on forward and they're happy with what they've got and the players they have.''
Yet even now Wall isn't sure why things didn't work out with the Tar Heels.
``I still don't have a clue,'' he said.
Instead of Wall running the point for the defending national champions, it's sophomore Larry Drew II, who played against Wall during their AAU days.
Drew has grown into the role of replacing superstar Ty Lawson and played arguably his best game of the season in a win over No. 9 Michigan State on Tuesday, finishing with 18 points and six assists.
Despite his disappointment in not playing for the Tar Heels, Wall doesn't view his first time on the national stage as a chance to show Williams what he's missing. There's too much on the line for that.
North Carolina has dominated the series between college basketball's two all-time winningest programs in recent years, and after a series of early season escapes against seemingly overmatched opponents Calipari is only too aware that the Wildcats could get ``punched in the mouth.''
running a little high.
``I think I might have a little bit of an edge, but I can't let it overwhelm me and try to go out of control and do stuff I'm not supposed to do,'' he said. ``If I get out of control, it's going to mess us up.''
He's rarely been out of control so far for Kentucky, showing a flair for both the dramatic and the spectacular. He knocked down a game-winning jumper against Miami (Ohio) two weeks ago and set a school freshman record with 14 assists in a romp over UNC Asheville on Monday.
Though he's never said anything to his teammates about the perceived snub by the Tar Heels, they know it bothers him.
``I believe it's going to be another side of John,'' said Kentucky freshman center DeMarcus Cousins. ``He'll probably take it to another level.''
----
AP Basketball Writer Aaron Beard in Chapel Hill, N.C., contributed to this report.
 

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