Oct 31, 2012
North Carolina has produced numerous NBA basketball players over the years. One of the most recent is former Word of God point guard John Wall. Wall grew up in Raleigh, attended Garner, Broughton and Word of God, then committed to Kentucky. After one season with the Wildcats, he was drafted as the overall No. 1 pick by the Washington Wizards. Even though Wall no longer lives in Raleigh, home is still a special place.
"They've always supported me," Wall said. " They supported me when I left and went to college at Kentucky. Every time I come back home, play in the Pro-Am or just be around, I get a lot of excitement, a lot of fans."
Wall also pays attention to the people in North Carolina, particularly in high school basketball talent.
"I'm just a basketball neat freak. When it comes to girls basketball, boys basketball, it doesn't matter. I'm always watching, I'm still looking at the high school kids like I'm playing against them... It's great to have this state's basketball players be known and I'm just trying to be the head guy that led the way for them and hopefully they follow my footsteps, but do it their own way," said Wall.
The former North Carolina high school student had his own advice for student-athletes hoping to follow in his footsteps.
"Whenever you get known there's a lot of pressure on you, everybody's eyes are on you, so you have to watch everything you do. The main focus is to make sure you go to school and make sure you do education first. My first two years of high school I wasn't really focused, I thought you just get a scholarship and go play basketball, but you need grades for that."
I think I proved a lot of people wrong. I did a better job when I went to college and my last two years of high school. I wish I would have known ninth and tenth grade what you need to do so I would not have had to get as high of a score on my SAT, but I did what I had to do to get it done and I went to college and went to class and did what I had to do."
Despite being an NBA point guard, Wall still thinks about his education. In fact, he plans to finish his college degree, possibly in business management.
"I'm still working on getting my degree before I'm done with everything," said Wall. "I'm going to take online classes, but my last two years I want to be in the classroom instead of online."
Wall aims to finish where he started, at Kentucky.
"That's where I'm going so I can be on campus. Enjoy my college life when I'm 40," Wall joked.
Nobody really in my family really had the opportunity to go to college, I was the first person. I want to be a person in my family to get a degree. Basketball doesn't last forever."
Wall has attracted fans and critics alike throughout the course of his career. Handling criticism is something he has had to learn to do.
"Through high school I had a lot of criticism, when I went to college everybody said he wasn't going to do anything. I just go out there and play basketball the way I know how to play, either you can like it or you don't."
It doesn't bother me. Basically just whatever anybody says to me, if I feel like it was in a negative way I just try to turn it into a positive way and use it on the basketball court. If you get a chance to see me play basketball, or if you get a chance to be around me, I'm going to act the same way I normally am, I'm laid back, cool, energetic from time to time."
The criticism doesn't stop for Wall in the NBA.
"I think the third year really makes or breaks you throughout your career. It's a big year for me. I did a lot of changes in the off season with my strength coach and my workout guys."
I feel like I can be the best, I know my hard work, dedication and how I can play. It's just me going out there and doing it and winning games."
I don't really like to set expectations, but I feel like we can be in the playoffs. I feel like we've got the right pieces, we've got a lot of veteran guys, it's just depending on how I come back and really play. I think my season will really dictate what my team can do. We've got the pieces, it's just up to us to go out there and play basketball," said Wall.
No matter where the criticism comes from, Wall is always thankful for the support he gets from home.
"Shout-out to Raleigh, North Carolina, where I was born and raised," said Wall. "Thanks for supporting me, thanks for sticking with me, hoping you keep supporting the Washington Wizards."