LEXINGTON – John Wall went back in time, and it was like old days, with the exception of the outcome.
Although it's been almost two years since he played at Rupp Arena, the former University of Kentucky guard noticed little difference during the Kentucky Pros exhibition game against the Dominican Republic. Wall never lost a game in the arena while at Kentucky, but that all changed Monday night when the Dominican Republic national team, led by Wall's former college coach John Calipari, defeated the Pros 106-88.
“It just felt like a regular game like we were back here playing a couple years ago,” he said afterward.
“Like Jodie (Meeks) said, we just tried to come out here and have fun, do it for the fans, do it for coach Cal and help the Dominican team get ready for Argentina. We all have to get in shape but we had a good time.”
When he was introduced to the, capacity crowd, it was like yesterday, an environment that he said the NBA¿can’t contend with, including the atmosphere in the Washington Wizards' home arena. Wall said he experienced “nothing close” to the feeling that flows from the floor to the rafters of Rupp Arena during pregame introductions.
“It was emotional walking out there and hearing our names called and playing in front of 24,000,” he recalled. “It was great.”
The crowd erupted when Wall slammed home a dunk on an alley-oop assist from Keith Bogans in the first period. Wall made just three field goals, one of which was a 3-pointer, but his jubilant presence was enough to keep the crowd excited for the duration of the game, which featured four 10-minute quarters.
Unlike his previous experiences at Rupp Arena, Wall wasn't the star player on his team. Wall, who finished with 15 points and dished out two assists, played alongside former Kentucky standout guards Rajon Rondo, Meeks and Eric Bledsoe.
Wall admitted that the team didn't have a lot of time to prepare and he “didn't really have a ton of time to be around” the recent Kentucky greats, but enjoyed playing with Rondo in the backcourt.
“We just tried to talk to them and learn their leadership. (Rajon) Rondo and them, they were talking the entire game,” he said. “We were all taking it seriously, they were just telling us different stuff and keys that we can take through the offseason and on to the season.”
Like Wall, Rondo enjoyed having Wall as his teammate in the backcourt.
“It was fun,” Rondo said. “He's an exciting player to play with and watch, so I guess a lot of people never anticipated us playing together. We just went out there, tried to have fun and tried to win, but obviously we didn't come up with the victory.”
Wall wouldn't hesitate to play again at Rupp Arena in the future.
"(North) Carolina, they've got a little alumni game they have," Wall said. "I think that's something we should start as a tradition at Kentucky, just coming back here and letting us play."