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Wall receives rave reviews in debut

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wall layup uk_clarion.jpgHere's your not-so-difficult trivia of the night: What's the difference between a 74-point game Monday night and Friday's 117-52 pounding of Clarion?

I'll give you a hint. It looks like 195 pounds of lightning in a bottle. It's a one-man fast break.

Making his collegiate debut, freshman phenom John Wall played every bit the part he was touted to be as the nation's consensus No. 1 player in the 2008-09 high school class. With the controversy of a two-game NCAA suspension halfway behind him and the buzz of Big Blue Nation brewing to a boiling point, Wall did not disappoint.

The point guard sensation just missed out on a double-double, ripping off 27 points on 10-of-14 shooting and dishing out nine assists in 28 minutes of action.

"I asked him, 'Is that your 'A' game?" head coach John Calipari said. "It was pretty good. He makes us different, obviously."

How about an A-plus, coach? Under the leadership and uncanny confidence of the first-year player, the UK offense moved with unparalleled ease and quickness.

Four days after total totaling just 12 assists to 23 turnovers, the Cats reversed their fortunes under Wall. Of UK's 42 field goals, 27 of them came off assists. The Cats nearly sliced their turnovers in half, committing just 12 errors in the 117-52 rout of Calipari's alma mater, Clarion.

In Perry Stevenson's grading scale, Wall's performance was a "100" on a scale of one to 10.

"That's a different ballclub that played Monday night (than the one we saw tonight)," Clarion head coach Ron Righter said. "In my 35 years of coaching in Division I, Division II, all the way around the country, that's as skilled as a team that I've seen. It's just a matter of time, people, that this place is really going to see something special."

There are special players up and down the UK roster. On Friday, there were six of them in double figures, but it's hard to fathom what that final offensive numbers would have looked like without Wall. (It's even harder to imagine, and maybe more fun to think about, what the UK offense would have looked like with Eric Bledsoe and Daniel Orton out there. Bledsoe missed Friday with a sprained ankle and Orton left before halftime with a chest injury.)

To say Wall was the engine of the UK offense would be an understatement. He was the engine, the accelerator, the pedal and the wheel. Patrick Patterson is the heart and soul of this UK team and DeMarcus Cousins has the potential to flat-out dominate, but it only took one real game to show people that this edition of the Cats will go as far as Wall can drive them.

Calipari was quick to point that the difference from Monday to Friday started on the defensive end. As true as some of that might be - UK forced Clarion into 23 turnovers - it would be selling the performance of Wall well short.

"He's definitely a presence out there on the court," senior guard Ramon Harris said. "I think what he did is he made it easier for other people on the court, and that's what a point guard should do."

Wall hit jumpers, made smooth layups, drained 3-pointers and dished out assists like they were pocket change (they are called dimes after all).

But Wall's biggest presence and most defining trait was his leadership, Calipari said. It's an intangible that few freshmen have.

"He said to me that we had to get Patrick some more shots," Calipari said. "In the end he's saying let's get DeMarcus the ball. That's a leader. He knows and has a feel for his team and he wants to keep everybody happy and get them the ball."

And that's maybe the most defining aspect of his leadership. On a night like Friday's, an evening where he could have just as easily gone for 30 and begged the coach to stay on the floor to get his double-double, it was his unselfishness to get his other teammates involved that evokes the word "special" about this kid.

"As a point guard, you want to get your best player on your team (the ball). When (Patterson) is out there I want to get him the ball," Wall said. "I looked up at the score at halftime and he only had four points. I was like, 'Coach, we've got to get Pat the ball.' "

As far as assessing his own performance, Wall thought it was "pretty good."

"I couldn't wait (to play with my teammates)," Wall said. "It was just fun. We've got great team chemistry, but we've got a long way to go."

Maybe, but tonight you get an A-plus, Mr. Wall.

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The Cats with John Wall at the helm were so smooth and so entertaining it makes me want to cry.

I love it! I have been a UK fan all my life, but never have I been this ecstatic in anticipating the season. Welcome Coach Calipari; welcome UK Wildcats basketball back to the Top Ten in the Nation!

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  • Bob: I love it! I have been a UK fan all my life, but never have I been this ecstatic in read more
  • Stuart Baldwin: The Cats with John Wall at the helm were so smooth and so entertaining it makes me want to cry. read more