USA TODAY High School Sports has been given access inside the making of the new AAU program started by Washington Wizards star John Wall. Here is the next installment.
GREENSBORO, N.C. – Kyran Bowman crouches down into defensive position, extends his arms on both sides and pushes up on his man so close you’d swear he was trying to head-butt him.
The opposing player creates brief separation and takes one dribble; Bowman slaps the ball away then outhustles his man to the ball and finishes with a layup Saturday at the Phenom Hoop Report NC Top 80 at Proehlific Park.
On the very next possession, Bowman chases down another deflection, this time caused by his teammate, and scores again.
Kendrick Williams unfolds his arms on the sideline, smiles and begins to clap.
“Plays like that are indicative of the way that we want to play,” said Williams, who serves as Team Wall AAU’s director/coach. “I want this team to be a reflection of the way John (Wall) was when he played. I want them to play with tenacity and effort. I wanted a team full of players that have that ‘dog’ in ‘em. I feel like we’ve got that.”
Every Sunday for the last three weeks more than 50 players filed into the Boys & Girls Club in Raleigh, N.C., vying for a spot on Team Wall, the newest AAU program on the adidas’ circuit started by Washington Wizards All-Star point guard John Wall, a North Carolina native.
In the end 20 players, forming two separate teams, made the cut.
“I’m really excited about the collection of talented players my staff and I have put together,” said Williams, who coached Wall in high school and AAU. “It’s hard to narrow it down when you’ve got a gym full of talented players so we took an extra few weeks to make sure we got exactly what we wanted.”
From do-it-all point guards like Word of God Academy’s (Raleigh, N.C.) Jalen Harris and Bowman, who doubles as a wide receiver at Havelock (Havelock, N.C.) and is committed to North Carolina for football, to high flyers like E.E. Smith’s (Fayetteville, N.C.) J.J. Smith to bucket-getters like Wake Christian’s (Raleigh, N.C.) Rob Whitfield to big bruisers like Mount Zion’s (Durham, N.C.) Iran Bennett to state champions like Terry Sanford’s (Fayetteville, N.C.) Telly and Malik Johnson to young stars like Greenfield’s (Wilson, N.C.) Coby White, Team Wall has managed to land one of the most deep and talented rosters on the uber-prestigious adidas Gauntlet.
The team’s final piece was added Saturday when Wesleyan Christian Academy’s (High Point, N.C.) Jalen Johnson, a 6-foot-7 do-it-all wing, joined the squad.
“I just felt like this was a great opportunity to be a part of something new,” Johnson said. “We’ve got a lot of talented guys and I feel like this is a place where I can play and contribute. I feel like we’ll all push each other. Coach Kendrick was saying that John wanted a team that can really get up and down fast and that’s the way I like to play. I feel like, if we’re able to do that consistently, we can win the Gauntlet.”
Still, hoisting trophies was just one of the goals Wall had in mind when he created the team.
“I created Team Wall as a way to give back to the greater North Carolina community,” Wall said. “I realize that basketball will not take everyone to the NBA, but that it will open doors to college opportunities and creating life experiences for many kids.”
Their first lesson in life experience will be gelling together as a cohesive unit; a tall order for a group of players not used to each other’s tendencies.
“That could be tough, but this is all part of it,” said Williams, who is planning a scrimmage next weekend before heading off to Dallas for the first session of the adidas Gauntlet on April 10. “It’s a fun challenge for us as coaches. We want the guys to buy in to playing for something greater than themselves. That’s how they’ll have success on and, more importantly, off the court.”
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