When John Wall arrived as a freshman at the University of Kentucky in 2010, it was an open secret that his stay in Lexington would last just one season. He was the top-ranked player out of high school, the headliner for the nation’s top-ranked recruiting class, and the consensus No. 1 pick in the upcoming NBA draft.
John Calipari was in his first year as Kentucky’s coach and did not deny the one-and-done reality; he encouraged it. He had coached Derrick Rose and Tyreke Evans at Memphis and made one request to his latest prized point guard: take the other guys to the NBA with you. Those other guys included fellow freshmen DeMarcus Cousins, Daniel Orton, and Eric Bledsoe. Everyone was on board from the start except for one: Bledsoe.
“He used to come in and tell me, ‘Eric doesn’t believe he can do this, Coach,’ ” Calipari recalled in a telephone interview. “‘He doesn’t believe he’s an NBA player.’ I said, ‘What? We got a job then. We’re going to convince him that he is because he is. We’re going to get in his mind with the right stuff.’ ”