The Nike Hoop Summit was a perfect playground to display John Wall’s massive point guard skills on Saturday — and aptly named to boot.
If he wasn’t before then Wall certainly elevated himself to the peak of the 2009 recruiting class with a scintillating 13-point, 11-assist, five-steal performance in USA’s 97-89 loss to World Select in Portland, Ore.
While Xavier Henry (22 points) and Avery Bradley (21 points) got the ball through the hoop more often, nobody was more dazzling or efficient than Wall.
Since that game the long-limbed, ultra quick 6-foot-3 senior from Word of God Christian Academy (Raleigh, N.C.) has been all the rage around not just the half dozen or so college programs still seeking his commitment but NBA camps alike.
While most experts are still trying to dissect Wall’s still weighty college list — Baylor, Duke, Florida, Kansas, Kentucky, Memphis, Miami and North Carolina — Saturday’s performance ignited NBA talk.
Many NBA insiders think that's he's ready now to enter the draft, most projections have him in the top eight and some say the top three.
More important, some think he can dribble around the league’s one-year-removed from high school graduation clause.
Seems there might be a loophole in the case of Wall, a fifth-year senior, because he should have graduated last year. He's also met another NBA criteria of being 19-years-old.
But Wall has been adamant all along that college basketball – a shortened version anyway – is what he wants. He also desires to lead a school to a national championship.
All around him – AAU and high school coaches, relatives and friends — say that Wall has not even considered the 2009 NBA draft.
Then again, as CBSsports.com columnist Gary Parrish pointed out in a Wednesday column, a top eight NBA pick will make at least $4.3 million over two years. That’s a minimum. Such green figures have changed the mind of the most sincere, true blue young lads over the years.
USA coach John Olive, who spent all of three days with Wall last week, thinks the talented guard certainly has the tools and explosiveness for the NBA. And he was very impressed with Wall's will and coachability.
But Olive, a former NBA player in the late 70s, doesn't think any kid just out of high school is prepared for the physical and mental demands of professional basketball.
"Personally, I don't think any 18- or 19-year-old kid is ready," he said. "Could John or another super talented kid go and practice and do well with an NBA team and in a few years develop into a fine player? Of course. But even Kobe Bryant struggled the first couple years.
"Does (Wall) have the physical ability to be an NBA point guard? Absolutely. Does he see the game well enough or have the maturity in his game as say a 2- or 3-year NBA veteran? Probably not.
"It's just all a matter for him where he wants to learn the game. Does he want to go to college and be a top player in a top program and grow like that? Or does he want to go to the NBA and learn while sitting and practicing?"
With the college letter of intent regular signing date period under way — it started Wednesday and runs through May 20 — time is ticking for Wall.
Though the blogs, college offers and dollar figures are no doubt double- and triple-teaming Wall’s senses, clearly he’s still running the point. Every one is after him but he's got the ball.
The longer he waits to decide — we can only imagine the media barrage that will hit him this weekend at the Jordan Brand All-Star Classic in New York — the harder and more frequent folks will press him for an answer.
Here is how we break down Wall’s possible destinations;
North Carolina. Wall said the most important factors in his college choice is staying near home, rapport with coaches and a sense of community and family with the program. Oh yes, and a place he can help win a national crown. How can you go wrong with Roy Williams, the defending national champs in your home state? Odds that Wall picks North Carolina: 35 percent.
The NBA. If he takes this route it might actually behoove him NOT to graduate from high school, an almost absurd notion. If he does graduate – which he’s scheduled to do in the next two months – he’ll need to jump through a lot of legal hoops in a short time to be eligible for the June draft. Odds that Wall pursues 2009 NBA draft: 25 percent.
Florida. Bill Donovan and program came in late on Wall’s radar making it a legitimate option. There’s lots of hubbub in the Sunshine State of late, it’s warm, cozy and Wall’s style of play is a particularly nice fit. Odds that Wall picks Florida: 20 percent.
Duke. Much like North Carolina, this fits all the criteria however if academics were at issue in high school, then this appears one leap Wall might fall short. Odds that Wall picks Duke: 10 percent.
Kansas. Great program with chance to win national crown right away, especially if either of two other top 10 uncommitted recruits – Henry or Lance Stephenson — sign on. But the logjam of talent might limit touches, plus it appears Kansas is too far from home. Odds that Wall picks Kansas: 5 percent.
Kentucky. New coach John Calipari develops point guards with the best of them, but it might take more than a season or two to build a national champion. Odds that Wall picks Kentucky: 5 percent.