That’s Debatable: Where Does Uber-Frosh John Wall Rank?

Posted by rtmsf on December 15th, 2009


Each week RTC will posit a That’s Debatable question or topic that is relevant to the world of college basketball.  Sometimes whimsical, sometimes serious, we’ll post the thoughts from our core editing crew (in 200 words or less), but we’ll also be expanding to include our contributors and correspondents as appropriate throughout the season.  We also invite you, the readers, to join us as we mull over some of the questions facing the game today.  Feel free to send us your takes and/or leave them in the comments below.

This Week’s Topic: Kentucky’s John Wall has burst upon the scene as not only one of the best freshmen in America this season, but possibly one of the best we’ve seen around these parts in quite some time.  How good is he relative to some of the other great freshmen of recent vintage?  He’s the best freshman since whom and why?


Wall's World: We're Just Living In It (AP/Ed Reinke)

Wall's World: We're Just Living In It (AP/Ed Reinke)

 zach hayes – editor/contributor, RTC

Kevin Durant. I know I’m not exactly digging into the history books with this one, but Durant was a totally dominant scorer in his only year in Austin, as well as one of those players you absolutely cannot miss if he’s on TV that night. His final numbers in 2006-07 were incredible: 25.8 PPG, 11.1 RPG, 47% FG, 82% FT, 40% 3pt. Rarely in college basketball do you see a player surpass the 45%/80%/40% trifecta. Durant completed the task in his freshman season. The only argument against Durant is that his Longhorns flamed out early in March; I’d blame that falter on a weak/young supporting cast that relied on Durant to completely carry that team. Plug Durant on John Wall’s Wildcats and the national championship trophy would be a lock to return to Lexington.

nvr1983 – editor/contributor, RTC

Is this a joke? Am I the only college basketball fan who isn’t fully aboard the John Wall bandwagon? I know he exceptionally talented, but he is still very rough around the edges. For every jaw-dropping play he makes (and there have been several) there are a half dozen turnovers. This isn’t exactly shocking since Wall has only played nine games, but for some reason everybody is willing to overlook his carelessness because of his ridiculous athleticism and his penchant for hitting big shots. I get the infatuation with his potential, but before I anoint him “The Next Big Thing” I want to see him dominate. I am talking a 37/23 like Durant put up against Texas Tech (in regulation!) back when Bob Knight was still roaming the sideline in Lubbock. Wall gives us glimpses of his ability to dominate, but he hasn’t put it together for a long enough stretch to have me put him at that level yet. Wall may never put up similar numbers because of the DDM and the fact that Wall has more talented players around him than Durant did, but I’m going to wait for a little more consistency out of Wall before I even consider him in the discussion of the all-time freshmen.

john stevens – editor/contributor, RTC

I’d say he’s the best freshman since Kevin Durant in 2006-07.  It’s hard to overlook that 2007-08 frosh class of Rose, Beasley, Love, Mayo, etc.  But right now I think you can move Wall past them.  It has to stop at Durant because he was one of those players (let alone freshman) who made you want his team to show up on TV even if you had no rooting interest in the game.  And he won about every national POY award out there.  Wall has electrified college basketball fans in a similar way.  Maybe even more — I mean, the guy’s got his own dance that people are doing around the world, even showing up on prime-time television…like, on sitcoms (see below), not even basketball games.  Wall benefits slightly in that his stardom comes not just from his phenomenal skill, but also because he’s helping to revive the Kentucky program.  If their roles were switched, we might be talking about Xavier Henry as much as we are about Wall.  If he keeps his current pace, and if he wins all the national POYs and a championship, then and only then can we talk about moving him past Durant.
rtmsf – editor/contributor, RTC
I have to agree with two of my compatriots when I say he’s the best I’ve seen since Kevin Durant, with the caveat that his end-of-game clutchness  just might make him better.  And that’s not just the Bill Simmons in me talking either.  The only thing Simmons got right about college basketball in his entire life was that KD was must-see television during his only year in Austin, and John Wall is the same way.  The big difference between the two is that, while I’m sure that Durant must have had a few game-winning plays during his year at Texas, they’re not jumping out at me in the way Wall has done so in just ten games this year.  It’s great to have big numbers — but basketball is ultimately about making plays down the stretch of close games, and Wall has already shown that he’s as clutch as they come at this level (winning three close games in the last minute will do that, and I’m not counting the UNC game).  In that respect, he may ultimately be better than Durant because he has the stones and the mental history of the ball going through the hoop under extreme pressure to give his teammates the confidence to repeatedly go to him at the end of games.  If Kentucky makes a run past the second round in the NCAA Tournament, where Durant was unceremoniously eliminated in 2007, it will likely be because Wall is making things happen for his team at the end of games, and if he can will UK into a Final Four with largely a team of freshmen, I won’t hesitate to call him even better than Durant.
rtmsf (3970 Posts)

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6 responses to “That’s Debatable: Where Does Uber-Frosh John Wall Rank?”

  1. william says:

    I’m 30 years old. Kevin Durant is the best, most talented college player I’ve EVER seen. He was absolutely unstoppable, unguardable on the college level.

  2. Andrew says:

    I’ll agree with the idea that John Wall is must-see TV and hyper-talented and he will be a stud in that other basketball league that I don’t watch where they pay players (you know, besides the SEC)… But I’m not going to say he is the best college basketball player since anybody before he even plays a single conference game…

  3. John Stevens says:

    Hey! RTMSF!

    Is that 200-word thing just sort of a guideline, then? (wink)

    William: I wish I were 30. I remember 30.

    Andrew: the question asks about the best freshman, not necessarily the best player. But your point is still valid. I think he’s lived up to all the hype so far but I also believe most people are taking a wait-and-see approach. There’s still a lot of hoops to be played though I don’t see the kid slowin’ down. In fact, I think as soon as someone tells him that Kentucky only has one triple-double in its history, I think he’ll probably just go out and get one at will.

    John Stevens

  4. JR says:

    nvr, The only thing I have to say about your KD comparison is that the game you referenced was over 20 games into the season and Durant was the main scoring threat for that team. Augustain and Abrams were solid scorers that season but nothing like Wall is playing with in Patterson, Bledsoe and Cousins. I would be surprised if we see 30 plus points at all from him because he doesn’t need to score that many. Instead, we will see 21,6 and 11 like he pulled against Rider.

    He is still turnover prone because he wants to make the SC play but he will cut down on that. That is his only weakness. He has made game winning plays in at least 3 games so far this season. Unreal.

  5. nvr1983 says:

    The first point is a fair one and I recognized it when I looked at Durant’s box scores and Wall might put up that many points in a game (there’s no way he puts up 23 rebounds in a regulation game), but my point (surprisingly like much of the panel) was that he hasn’t done it yet so we’re not ready to give him the crown. The having talented teammates can be a +/- in this situation because you can argue it your way (Wall can’t score as much so that limits his “greatness”) or you can argue it rtmsf’s way (Wall will probably advance further in the NCAA tournament enhancing his “greatness”).

    I hope that Wall cuts down on the turnovers, but I will need to see it happen before I am willing to give him credit for it.

    Nobody here is questioning the fact that Wall is a great talent. I think we are all just questioning how great he is.

  6. Giggity says:

    Props to nvr for getting off the nutsack and realizing we are 10 games into the season. Wall isn’t even close to Durant at this point. And for those who can’t remember any of Durant plays, youtube the Oklahoma St./Texas game from that year.

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