USA TODAY High School Sports has been given exclusive access inside the making of the new AAU program started by Washington Wizards All Star John Wall. Here is the next installment.
Jalen Harris said things would be different; in fact he guaranteed it.
Still, who knew that he and Team Wall (N.C.) would make it look so good?
“We had it going last weekend,” said Harris, Team Wall’s point guard. “I feel like we all had something to prove and we played like it.”
By the time the Hoop Group Southern Jam Fest (Hampton, Va.) concluded, the general consensus among spectators was that Team Wall, the AAU team started by Washington Wizards All Star point guard John Wall, was, arguably, the most exciting show on hardwood.
From countless poster dunks to ankle-breaking crossovers to lockdown defense to clinic-worthy ball rotation, Team Wall put on a show memorable enough to wipe away the stench of their dismal 0-4 showing at the adidas Gauntlet in Indianapolis April 24-26.
“It’s one thing to tell yourself that you’re gonna turn things around; it’s an entire other thing to put action behind it,” Team Wall coach/director Kendrick Williams said. “It’s a lesson for life: How will you respond when you get knocked down? These guys answered the bell in a big way.”
Team Wall finished 3-1 and made it to the Elite 8 of the Southern Jam Fest; this weekend they’re focused on building on that success at the Capitol City Hoop Classic (Annapolis, Md.).
“We didn’t want to lose anymore and we came out and played like it,” said Harris, who averaged 17 points, nine assists and posted a 3-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio at the Southern Jam Fest. “I think we were all a little embarrassed after Indianapolis and we wanted to prove to everyone, including ourselves, that we were better than that. We just came out and played the way we’re capable of. We had fun out there.”
Williams said, at times, the team played so well he had flashbacks of when he coached Wall, former Maryland star Dez Wells and former N.C. State star C.J. Leslie in high school and AAU.
“They were out there making those types of ‘wow’ plays that John, Dez and those guys used to make,” Williams said. “It was eerie to watch. We’ve moved on from Indy. You’ve gotta remember we’re building a program from the ground up; this isn’t just a new year it’s the first year in the history of the program. Literally three months ago there was no Team Wall. They just went out and played the way they’re capable of playing, but this weekend is the most important step. Now we’ve got to show consistency.”
Especially since Wall will be watching.
Team Wall will suit up for practice at the Washington Wizards practice facility this afternoon before lacing ‘em up for its first game Saturday morning.
Jalen Johnson is confident that he and his teammates are up for the challenge; makes since for a guy who averaged 27 points and six rebounds at the Southern Jam Fest last weekend.
“I feel like we’re all clicking on a different level after last weekend,” Johnson said. “Not making excuses, but we had a lot going on that weekend in Indianapolis, but that’s in the past. Honestly, we played well last weekend, but we could’ve played even better. We felt better about playing better, but no one was happy because we didn’t win it all. Now we’re focused on taking that next step. We’ve grown a lot, and we know that we can beat anybody. Now we want to prove that to everyone else.”
Here’s how Team Wall got it done at the Southern Jam Fest.
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