John Wall, The Person

Jason King, Yahoo (http://sports.yahoo.com/ncaa/basketball/news?slug=jn-wall120409)

“I’m not trying to put down the people that have them,” Wall says. “But for me right now, it’s all about image. You can’t walk around looking like a thug. There are kids out there looking up to me. I’ve got to set a good example.”

“I came here for two reasons: to get better and to win,” Wall says. “I know one thing leads to the other. Whether I stay here one year or two years or three, I’ve got a lot of work to do, a lot of people to make proud.”

As much as he’s enjoyed the opportunities and fame presented to him through basketball, the most meaningful moment of John Wall’s life thus far occurred on a beach nearly 10 years ago in Lumberton, N.C.

“It was the last time,” Wall says, “that I saw my dad.”

With school set to start on Monday, Wall’s parents had made a last-minute decision to take their children on a weekend getaway. Along with ending the summer on a fun note, Wall’s mother, Frances Pulley, knew the trip would provide a good opportunity for John to spend some time with his father, John Wall Sr., who had been diagnosed with liver cancer and been given six months to live.

It turned out to be six weeks.

On the final day of the vacation, Wall’s father fell ill and had to be hospitalized. He died the next morning.

“Everyone tells me I look like him and that I act like him,” says Wall, who was only 9 at the time. “People say he was a good guy, a fun guy to be around.”

Wall pauses.

“That weekend is the best memory of my life,” he says. “Just playing on the beach with him, going out to eat and having good conversations … I’m just so glad we took that trip so I have that to remember him by. I was so young, you know … I just don’t have much else.”

The death of Wall’s father caused a strain on the family that was felt for years to come.

Wall was even cut from the basketball team as a sophomore at Broughton High School in Raleigh – and his attitude was one of the main reasons.

“Don’t go to a school just because your friends are there or because it sounds like a dream school,” Wall remembers Dwon saying. “Go to a program that fits your style of play.”

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