Fans call him "The Great Wall." His teammates have dubbed him "Rocket." Some, outrageous as it may sound, have even anointed him "God," or "The Messiah's Son."
Whatever his nickname, John Wall is coming to an NBA arena near you shortly. Just don't blink. If you do, you'll probably miss him.
When Wall turns on the jets, he's gone, faster than a speeding bullet. And before you know it, he's in orbit, skying, then finishing his next YouTube dunk.
"I have no idea [where I got my quickness from]," Kentucky's phenom freshman point guard said as the third-ranked Wildcats prepare to face Drexel tonight at Rupp Arena in Lexington (7, ESPNU).
Maybe he's unsure about that. But one thing is certain: Wall is the next can't-miss, the next one-and-done, the next star. Wall is putting up 18.0 points, 7.0 assists and 4.1 rebounds per game for the unbeaten Wildcats (11-0).
Mock draft sites NBADraft.net and Draftexpress.com project Wall as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 draft. They even compare him with Chicago Bulls point guard Derrick Rose and Boston Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo.
And with good reason. This 19-year-old is worth all the hype. Listed at 6-4, 195 pounds, Wall plays like a man in crunch time, no stage - or Mecca - too grand for his high-wire act.
Case in point: Wall's Wildcats trailed Connecticut, 61-60, on Dec. 9 at Madison Square Garden with under a minute remaining. That is, until Wall made arguably the biggest play of his short career (a buzzer-beater to beat Miami, Ohio, 72-70, on Nov. 16 in his debut notwithstanding), receiving the ball beyond the three-point arc on the left wing, beating his defender off the dribble, driving left and converting an acrobatic lefthanded layup, despite the fact that he was seemingly under the rim when he let it go.
Plus, he was fouled. Plus, he made the free throw. Final score: Kentucky 64, UConn 61.
"I don't know how I made that shot," said Wall, who scored 12 of the Wildcats' final 15 points and ended with a game-high 25. "They just wanted me to make a play and I did.
"It was a big game win for us. They were the most aggressive team we've played all year. But we made the plays down the stretch and came out with the 'W.' "
Wall has come away with a lot of W's during his short lifetime. However, there was one major loss he suffered growing up. His father died when he was just 9 years old.
"When my dad passed away, I had to become a leader in the household," Wall said.
He also became a leader on the basketball court - his salvation, his escape from his difficult childhood growing up in Raleigh, N.C. - as well. Eventually, Wall landed at Word of God Christian Academy, mesmerizing defenses to go with his unique ability to pass and score. Next thing he knew, he was having his coming-out party at the 2007 Reebok U. All-American Camp when he was going toe-to-toe with then Oak Hill Academy uber-prospect Brandon Jennings, now the point guard for the Milwaukee Bucks.
"That's when I first realized I was one of the best," Wall said.
While he was being heavily recruited earlier this year, however, Wall had a major slipup, getting arrested for breaking and entering in May.
"It was stupid," Wall said. "I knew I made a mistake but I just had to put it behind me."
The arrest didn't deter Kentucky from making an offer. And the opportunity to play for coach John Calipari, Wall believed, was the perfect situation.
"Coach Cal develops point guards," said Wall, citing former Memphis prodigies Rose and Chester native Tyreke Evans, now the point guard for the Sacramento Kings, as examples. "He lets them make plays."
That's all Wall has been doing this season out of Calipari's dribble-drive motion offense. He has the freedom to be able to create off the bounce, distributing the ball to his teammates, namely probable NBA-ers Patrick Patterson and DeMarcus Cousins, or taking it to the rim himself.
"You have to be willing to come to practice every day ready to work," Wall said. "That's how you get better."
There's really not much Wall needs to get better at, though he said he wants to work on his jump shot and become more consistent on the defensive end of the floor.
So what does he want to accomplish this season?
"I want to go undefeated and win a national championship," Wall said.
And if he does?
"Then I'll go [to the NBA]," he said, adding that he will consult with Calipari before he makes his ultimate decision.
Asked about what it means to be mentioned in the same sentence as Rose and Rondo he said: "It's great. Hopefully I can be better than those guys, but it takes a lot of hard work and dedication.
"They are doing their thing on the NBA level and hopefully that's something I can do sooner or later."
It probably will be sooner. And Wall would love it if he could eventually play with one of his heroes - Allen Iverson.
"It would be an honor to play with [AI]," Wall said, "but I'd just be happy to be drafted by any team."
That team could be the 76ers, if they continue to struggle and the ping-pong balls bounce their way.