John Wall, Natural Born Leader
[This article originally appeared on ESPN’s Daily Dime for July 12, 2010, click for the full version.]
Wall talks to teammate JaVale McGee after a missed rebounding assignment.
It started from the second the ball was thrown in the air. Actually, those familiar with John Wall’s leadership and communication know it started much before that, even before he was the freshman leader of a talented Kentucky team. Wall is a natural born leader.
He wasn’t just vocal on both ends of the floor in his Summer League debut, an 84-79 Wizards win over the Warriors, he was loud. If his teammates don’t hear his instruction, it’s not his fault. They aren’t paying attention. And he doesn’t just use his vocal chords, pointing to talk is just as much a part of Wall’s game as that extra gear of speed he has over all others on the court.
Want more talking and leadership? When out of the game, Wall placed himself toward the front of the bench, talking with assistant coach Ryan Saunders, talking to his teammates, yelling out instruction toward the floor. Over the course of the game, you’re looking at 30 minutes if you total the amount of time Wall spent talking with Sam Cassell, who is heading the Summer League coaching staff for the Wizards. Okay, that might be an exaggeration, but you get the point, Sam I Am is always in Wall’s ear and Wall is always listening.
“Just listening to him is going to be a great experience because he’s been in this league a long time and he’s a vet,” Wall said after the game.
And Wizards fans, if you’re looking for a point leader to keep the über talented, yet in need of direction JaVale McGee in check, Wall is your man. Late in the game when Frenchman Kim Tillie out-positioned McGee for an offensive rebound, Wall got on his older teammate (by about two years and seven months) to not lose focus on the defensive boards, an area Flip Saunders has been preaching at McGee to improve upon.
“It’s not me trying to be bossy and say I’m bigger than anybody,” Wall said. “It’s just the point guard and my role to tell [my teammates] where to be and help my team get the best chance to win.”
Wall reinforced the need for McGee to get tough on the glass a second time as the players lined up for Tillie to shoot a free throw. But he also rewarded McGee multiple times, connecting with him for alley-oop after alley-oop. That combo needs a nickname, fast — SportsCenter just might get tired of showing them (but likely not).
“He’s a leader,” said Cassell. “That’s what we’re searching for, leadership, and he’s our guy.” A lot of Wizards fans are smiling right now because Wall is ‘their’ guy too.