Wall's decision could haunt Triangle schools

Staff WriterMay 20, 2009 

John Wall's recruiting saga has ended in Kentucky's favor, but the impact of his departure from the Triangle can't yet be fully calculated.

Odds are the immediate damage will be extensive simply because Wall hardly will be a gang of one in John Calipari's first talent harvest at Lexington.

With highly rated prospects Eric Bledsoe, DeMarcus Cousins and Daniel Orton already in tow, Calipari was off to a smashing start with or without another recruiting strike. The addition of Wall, who has been anointed by recruiting analysts as the best point guard in years, should give Calipari enough talent to make an immediate national splash.

The irony is that Wall departs at a time when North Carolina, Duke and N.C. State each are in dire need of point-guard help. Duke and State have been in that predicament for some time, although the Blue Devils have had enough lineup versatility to patch their void reasonably well.

Whether Wall's decision could have been changed in favor of a local program is debatable, of course. His citation in a recent case of breaking and entering undermined his image regionally and probably made it easier for him relocate. Before that episode, Wall had talked favorably about State for months, paid some late lip service to Duke and obviously wanted to get more than token attention from UNC. In reality, there was never much reason to think he would stray far from Calipari's reach.

It's a safe bet that had Calipari remained at Memphis, Wall would have gone there.

But for Carolina and Duke, the implications of Wall's decision took on added significance when Calipari was lured to Kentucky, an old-line basketball blue-blood with the ways, means, will and tradition to dwarf Memphis.

That is why Carolina coach Roy Williams and Duke's Mike Krzyzewski may regret having not been more of a factor in the Wall chase. When Memphis loomed as the winner, Wall was seen as a one-and-done star whose impact would have been significant but probably short lived.

Since it's a lot easier to revive a dynasty than build one, the potential of star players is considerably greater at Kentucky. Even if Wall leaves for the NBA after one season, his presence at Kentucky should be a valuable recruiting lure in addition to helping Calipari find an immediate shortcut to the national rankings.

An alternative possibility -- Wall in college for more than one season -- is even more imposing for Carolina, Duke and other programs that indirectly have profited from Kentucky's struggles. It could easily happen. Carolina's Raymond Felton and Ty Lawson weren't ready for the NBA after one season. Chris Paul stayed at Wake Forest for two seasons.

It's easy to imagine a scenario in which Wall, Cousins and the other freshmen win enough in 2009-10 to return for one more shot -- with help from current high school juniors John Hood and Darnell Dodson -- in 2010-11.

Either way, the Wall outcome will be discussed for months. It's not often that the Triangle has such a highly ranked player, much less loses him to Kentucky.

caulton.tudor@newsobserver.com or 919-829-8946

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