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Star recruit chooses Kentucky basketball

Point guard John Wall, of Raleigh Word of God Christian Academy, is considering playing at Kentucky.
Point guard John Wall, of Raleigh Word of God Christian Academy, is considering playing at Kentucky.

LEXINGTON, Ky. | Adding mega point guard prospect John Wall to Kentucky's recruiting haul inspired attempts to put the class in historic terms. Guesstimates quickly zoomed past best this year and best in 10 years.

Analyst Dave Telep of the Scout.com recruiting service put Kentucky's class in biblical terms.

"It's like Noah's ark," he said. "They got two of everything. Two point guards. Two centers. Two wings."

Wall, a 6-foot-4 player from Raleigh, N.C., is one of the point guards. More precisely, he's the No. 1 high school point guard in the country, according to all the major recruiting services.

Analyst Jerry Meyer of the Rivals.com recruiting service likened Wall to a mix of Derrick Rose and Rajon Rondo.

To describe Wall's speed and athleticism, analyst Brick Oettinger of Prep Stars cited one of the greatest Olympic champions.

"Picture Carl Lewis," Oettinger said before adding, "with a basketball in his hands."

When the person on the other end of the telephone laughed, Oettinger said, "I'm serious. He's faster than anybody on the court."

Wall joins a UK recruiting class that includes big man DeMarcus Cousins of Mobile, Ala. Rivals.com ranks them as the top two players in the high school class of 2009. Another big man, Daniel Orton, is generally considered a top-25 national prospect. Rivals also rates point guard Eric Bledsoe a top-25 national prospect.

Other players in UK's class are junior-college wing Darnell Dodson (Rivals considers him a four-star prospect) and Kentucky Mr. Basketball Jon Hood.

"By far, the No. 1 recruiting class in the country," said Bob Gibbons, an analyst for the All-Star Sports service. "Everybody had North Carolina No. 1. This class by far surpasses that."

Wall, who must still gain academic eligibility, faces one other minor hurdle. He is due in court May 29 to answer to a misdemeanor breaking and entering citation. He is eligible for a first-offender program in which punishment is usually community service. As a first offender, he can also petition the court to remove the citation from his record.

Wall is scheduled to talk about his choice of Kentucky at a 2 p.m. news conference on Wednesday. He had also been considering Duke, Miami (Fla.), North Carolina State, Florida, Kansas and Baylor.

Once again in this spring's astounding recruiting haul, new UK coach John Calipari was cited as the key factor.

"I had a group of great schools and I admire them all," Wall told the Raleigh News and Observer. "But the relationship I had with Coach Cal was the biggest factor."

In a separate interview with the recruiting service Rivals.com, Wall said, "In the end, I just felt I wanted to play for Coach Cal. Coaches give different visions of what they can do for you when they talk to you. And all of those are impressive. But my long relationship with Coach Cal and what he can do for me in his program was the main thing."

Although Wall spoke of an "easy decision," his travel-team coach and adviser, Brian Clifton, suggested a more deliberate process.

"We had an at-length conversation last night," Clifton told Rivals. "He felt that the risks that were at Kentucky were acceptable risks for him."

The risks were the presence of two other point guards at UK: sophomore-to-be DeAndre Liggins and Bledsoe. Bledsoe is considered one of the most talented point guards in the high school class of 2009, as was Liggins in the class of 2008.

"It's not like John is a guy who wants to take two or three years to figure it out and get things together," Clifton told Rivals. "He needs to hit the ground running in short order. But John said to me, 'When I came to your program, I wasn't the guy. I had to listen to you and turned it around. It doesn't matter to me who is there.'

"I believe in John Wall as a person, forget basketball. If he believes in the situation, then I trust him and respect him. If he believes he can do it, that's all I need to hear."

Wall, whom the analysts say must improve his perimeter shot and overall decision-making, welcomed the competition.

"Being able to play against Eric (Bledsoe) is a big plus," Wall told Rivals. "I told Brian and my mom that I've always had to fight for my position. That's what I had to do when I first played for Brian. I'm used to fighting. It's another challenge for me to come to Kentucky and fight for my position."

Wall is considered the final piece of the puzzle to complete Kentucky's revamped lineup. He would be the point guard to lead a potential lineup that would include holdover stars Patrick Patterson and Jodie Meeks, plus sophomore Darius Miller.

Gibbons likened Wall to the player's hero, Derrick Rose, a one-and-done point guard who led Memphis to the 2008 Final Four.

"John Wall, I predict, can do for Kentucky what Derrick Rose did for Memphis," the analyst said.

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