- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 25, 2011

For John Wall, the Monday before Christmas was especially busy. After an early practice with the team, he got on a bus with Wizards teammates Shelvin Mack, Hamady Ndiaye and Jordan Crawford, along with a few Capitals players and team executives, and delivered gifts to three local families. Then it was off to the airport for a flight to Philadelphia for the final preseason game the following night.

“I like doing stuff like this,” said Wall, clad in a navy sweatsuit with white stripes and a Santa hat with the Wizards’ logo.

“It’s just like when I was playing in all those charity games this summer. A lot of people don’t get to see NBA players for a $5 or a $25 ticket. It’s an honor to me and a lot of NBA guys that I hang out with to give back to the community. That means a lot to me.”

In a lot of ways, Wall is very much like a typical 21-year-old, one who enjoys spending time with his family in North Carolina, and beating his friends at video games. But Wall knows that for him, life’s not quite that simple.

“There’s a lot more pressure on me now,” Wall said.

Wizards guard John Wall grew a half-inch in the past year and added muscle to his 6-foot-4 frame. Wall also studies the styles of the NBA's elite point guards with the intent of joining that group. (Andrew Harnik / The Washington Times)
Wizards guard John Wall grew a half-inch in the past year and ... more >

Since he was selected by Washington with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 NBA draft, no one had to tell Wall that rebuilding this franchise starts with him.

“Yeah, it’s my responsibility,” Wall said. “Even though I’m a young guy, if I want to be a leader and the franchise guy on this team, I’ve got to put all the pressure on me.

“When we lose games, no matter if it was me making the last shot or missing the last shot, I’ve got to put the pressure on me. I’ve got to be the best. I’ve got to be the one that takes on all the losses and all the individual stuff that’s going on. You’ve got to really be mentally strong to deal with it, so yeah, I’m ready for it.”

The Wizards finished last season 23-59, and it was obvious that the losing wore on Wall. There were times when he let his guard down and let his frustrations show, even calling out his teammates on more than one occasion.

But what a difference a year makes. Wall grew half an inch and now stands 6-foot-4 1/2. He’s gotten stronger, and added muscle. He spent the offseason studying film of the elite point guards in the league, along with his busy summer-league game schedule. But most of all, Wall says, he’s learned a few things about what it takes to win.

“I’m totally a better player, just by one year of experience,” Wall said. “Last year, I was playing games and just trying to pick things up on the fly. Even though the lockout was tough, that gave me a lot of time to watch film, study myself, study other guys who I’m playing against and see what I can learn to add to my game.”

Wall says he’s been told his game most resembles that of Chicago Bulls point guard Derrick Rose. It’s a lot to live up to. Rose, the No. 1 overall pick in 2008, was Rookie of the Year in 2009. He’s also a two-time All-Star and the reigning MVP.

Wall’s teammate Mack thinks it’s a fitting comparison.

“He’s ready,” Mack said. “I think you can start talking about John in the same breath with Derrick Rose, Chris Paul, Deron Williams this year.

“He’s a competitor, on and off the court.

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