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By LARRY VAUGHT
Nothing helped John Wall during his first year at Kentucky more than the way the Kentucky fans embraced him from day one.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“When I saw the fans when I first got here, I said ‘Whoa Ã¢â‚¬â€ this is kind different than back home.Ã¢â‚¬â„¢ Those fans are crazy, but I ain’t never seen no fans like Kentucky fans. Carolina and Duke got some good fans, and N.C. State, but I’ve never seen fans who would sit outside the Wildcat Lodge and sit there for four hours just so you could come outside and sign autographs. It’s crazy,Ã¢â‚¬Â Wall said.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I love playing for this program. Kentucky is way bigger than me and this basketball team. They’ve had history in the past, and we’re just trying to add on to the history and bring the program back to where it was before. They’ve had a lot of great players, a lot of great coaches and the fans have supported them no matter what. We’re just trying to get the school back to where it was before.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Dwon Clifton, WallÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s former AAU coach, is now the director of basketball operations at Baylor. He remains in almost daily touch with Wall and he, too, has been overwhelmed with the way UK fans took to Wall almost from the time he arrived on campus.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“That has kind of surprised me to look on TV and see Ashley Judd doing a dance they say he created. It is a little mind-blowing at times,Ã¢â‚¬Â Clifton said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“I find myself getting ready for games and I hear his name and I just smile because it makes me proud to just be a part of it.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Cypheus Bunton, a former player and assistant coach at Western Kentucky, now coaches at South Carolina. The Gamecocks are one of only two teams to beat UK Ã¢â‚¬â€ Ã¢â‚¬Å“we caught them on a good nightÃ¢â‚¬Â Ã¢â‚¬â€ but Bunton says watching Wall has even been fun for him.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“He is an exceptional player. Guys donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t come through like him very often. He is just unbelievable. He has God-given talent most guys donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t have. Experience does mean a lot, but Wall is the exception because heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s so good,Ã¢â‚¬Â Bunton said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“Very few players could do what he has done.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I like the way he controls the game and he has unbelievable speed. He can get up and down the court in two dribbles if he has to. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s just unexplainable how it is. He is blessed with that speed and coach Cal gets the best out of him.Ã¢â‚¬Â
However, Bunton was even more impressed with WallÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s demeanor. He had heard stories about WallÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s occasional temper tantrums when he was younger and knew of the problem he had before he came to Kentucky.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“But he has been great. You can tell he is very humble kid and he plays the way coach Cal wants him to play. I wish we had him on our team. Who wouldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t want him? HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a great player and good kid,Ã¢â‚¬Â Bunton said.