The suspense had been long gone regarding if the Washington Wizards would select John Wall as the first pick of the NBA Draft last night. Once the Wizards were on the clock, the former University of Kentucky point guard had to sit at his table and wait five more minutes to be chosen.
Even if it was a brief delay, it was worth the wait for the 19-year-old Raleigh native. Wall stepped on to the Madison Square Garden stage last night and shook NBA Commissioner David Sterns hand as the star after being made the No. 1 pick of the Wizards.
The former Word of God High School star enjoyed the moment as he flashed a big grin when Stern spoke to him on the stage.
"It was an emotional experience. I was happy to be in the situation and he said 'You were waiting for this, werent you,'" Wall said. "It was a great time to sit there and shake his hands in front of all those people out there."
Considered the likely top pick for more than a year, Wall, a point guard, is the first North Carolina native chosen No. 1 overall since Brad Daugherty of Black Mountain was picked by the Cleveland Cavaliers in 1986.
Wall, 19, attended Raleigh's Word of God high school, where his speed, jumping ability, understanding of the game and tremendous desire made him one of the most sought after basketball players in the nation.
An all conference selection as a sophomore at Garner High School, Wall transferred to Broughton, where he was soon cut from the team.
But Wall became one of the top high school players in the country at Word of God and was the focus of an intense recruiting battle as a senior. Wall chose the University of Kentucky over Duke, N.C. State, Kansas, Memphis, Baylor and Miami, but played in Lexington just one season before applying for the NBA draft.
Wall's success as a freshman -- he led Kentucky to a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament -- cemented his status as the top pick tonight in New York.
North Carolina natives chosen No. 1 overall include UNC's James Worthy of Gastonia, picked by the Lakers in 1982; John Lucas of Durham, chosen by the Houston Rockets in 1976; N.C. State's David Thompson of Shelby, picked No. 1 by the Atlanta Hawks (and Virginia Squires of the ABA) in 1975 and New Bern's Walt Bellamy (Chicago Packers in 1961).
Other top overall picks with state connections were Duke's Elton Brand (Chicago Bulls in 1999), Wake Forest's Tim Duncan (San Antonio Spurs in 1997), and Duke's Art Heyman (New York Knicks in 1964)
The 6-1 guard stepped off the stage and was quickly hugged by his mother Frances Pulley, a major influence who stirred him to Word of God Academy. It led him to the University of Kentucky, where Wall displayed the athleticism and dominance at the point guard spot in freshman year.
He was named an NCAA All-America after scoring 16. 6 points per game and dishing 6.5 assists. Wall lead the Wildcats to the #1 overall seed of the NCAA Tournament, but lost to West Virginia in the final eight.
After a stellar campaign it was no surprise that Wall would forego the rest of his eligibility to enter the NBA draft. Wall said he was able to handle the pressure of playing in the NBA after leading a young and talented Wildcats program under coach John Calipari.
"Coach [Calipari] taught me a lot and I became a better leader vocally," Wall said. "I was always a leader by example being the first in the gym and last in the gym and working hard."
Wall joins a Washington Wizards team going in a youthful transition under new majority owner Ted Leonsis, who owns the NHLs Washington Capitals. The Wizards were overshadowed by the gun incident involving point guard Gilbert Arenas and Javaris Crittenden. Arenas was suspended for 50 games and the Wizards finished with a dismal 26-56 record.
Though Wall will likely be the starting point guard, he wants to play alongside Arenas and feels they can complement one another.
"I feel like he needs the ball in his hands a lot, but he did a great job with the point guard, Wall said. And we both did a great job this year and both have a chance to reach our dream.
Staff writer Luke DeCock contributed to this report