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By LARRY VAUGHT
John Wall was one of the top rookies in the NBA last season after the Washington Wizards made him the No. 1 overall pick in the 2011 draft following his freshman season at the University of Kentucky.Ã‚Â He averaged 16.4 points, 8.3 assists and 4.6 assists per game despite battling injuries part of the season. Now heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s fully recovered and during a recent charity game in Winston-Salem, N.C., he tossed a ball off the wall and dunked, whirled the ball behind his back for another jam and did a two-handed 360-degree dunk. HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s also announced he wouldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t mind entering the NBA slam dunk contest if given the opportunity.
Wall was back in Lexington for the Big Blue All-Stars vs. The Villains exhibition game Monday but did not play. After the game, he talked about the NBA lockout, why he didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t play in the game, his UKÃ¢â‚¬Ë†experiences and not winning a national title.
Question: How is life for you right now with no real basketball to play because of the NBA lockout?
Wall: Ã¢â‚¬Å“Life is good. Not playing in the regular season and just enjoying playing different communities and different events and basically giving back to the fans.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Question: Why did you not play in this game?
Wall: Ã¢â‚¬Å“I got here late. Plus, just resting and taking some time off. IÃ¢â‚¬Ë†have played in a lot of summer league games, so just taking the time off to rest and keep working out to get stronger and things like that. But it was a perfect opportunity to come down to Kentucky. I love being here and coming back and giving back. For me not to play and everybody thought I was, just for all the fans that were here and the guys playing I wanted to show my support and go out there and do the Y and show what it meant to them.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Question: Has it been a good idea for UKÃ¢â‚¬Ë†players to go across the state playing and also have these exhibition games in Rupp Arena?
Wall: Ã¢â‚¬Å“It is great because a lot of those fans donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t have the opportunity to go see NBA games. I feel like it is great for us to give back to them and let them enjoy it.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Question: Do you truly miss not playing basketball right now or is the break, something you have not had for years, actually nice?
Wall: Ã¢â‚¬Å“It is good to have a break, but our break should have been over a long time ago. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s time to get back to playing basketball, something I love to play. All I want to do is hoop. IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve not really thought about going overseas to play, but I guess if this keeps going that is soemthing IÃ¢â‚¬Ë†might have to at least look at to because I want to play.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Question: What have you been working on during the offseason to improve your game?
Wall: Ã¢â‚¬Å“I didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t have to shoot jump shots when I was in high school because I just went past everybody and dunked. All summer thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s all IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m working on is my jump shot. To be an all-star, thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s my goal this year, so I know IÃ¢â‚¬Ë†have got to have a better jump shot.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Question: Did just being here and watching bring back any memories for you?
Wall: Ã¢â‚¬Å“Every time you come into Kentucky and step into Rupp Arena just to watch a game or be in a game brings back a lot of memories. Stuff you miss that you only enjoyed for one year.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Question: Even though you only played one year at Kentucky, havenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t you basically made this your home away from home?
Wall: Ã¢â‚¬Å“That is what IÃ¢â‚¬Ë†want to do. Throughout my career and when my career is over, I want to have a place here to be back in this tradition of basketball where it is the best of anywhere. Basketball is what it is, but it is like a family. They love you for basketball, but they also love you to be a great person. I want to be a great role model to these kids and fans. That is all it really is. Everybody is being nice to me.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Question: Have you adjusted to how much your life has changed in just over two years since you first arrived at Kentucky?
Wall: Ã¢â‚¬Å“It is still amazing. I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t believe it to this day. You sit back and count your blessings and thank God as much as possible and be hungry and humble. ThatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s all you really can do. To be in the situation IÃ¢â‚¬Ë†am, I am very thankful.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Question: Is it easy to adjust when your life changes so dramatically after being the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA draft?
Wall: Ã¢â‚¬Å“Man, it changes so many different ways. But basically you just give credit to God for putting the basketball in my hands. He blessed me with my talent and you credit Kentucky for giving me the opportunity to come play basketball. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s always great to play here with the great tradition and when coach Cal came here, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s just going to keep getting better and better. Hopefully they can win it all this year.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Question: Do you still think about not winning the national championship in 2010 when UKÃ¢â‚¬Ë†lost to West Virginia in the Elite Eight?
Wall: Ã¢â‚¬Å“Yes, I think about it every day. I will think about it until I am off this earth. ThatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s what thing I wanted to do was win (the national title). ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s tough to think about and see that you had a chance to really do it. IÃ¢â‚¬Ë†have a long way to think about it and will never stop thinking about it.Ã¢â‚¬Â