- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 13, 2014

From No. 1 overall selection in 2010 to first time all-star in 2014, the respect for the Wizards John Wall around the NBA is growing.

With almost 400,000 votes, Wall fell behind only starters Kyrie Irving and Dwyane Wade in the Eastern Conference backcourt for Sunday’s game in New Orleans, and while the starters are determined by the fan vote, the league’s head coaches determine the reserves.

“That let’s me know that the coaches think that I’ve been improving this year and I’m helping out my team as much as possible to be a better leader,” Wall said.

Leadership is a quality that Wall always has possessed. He has been looked upon as a leader ever since his lone season at Kentucky under coach John Calipari.

“Coach Cal just made me a better player,” Wall said. “I always led by example, but he taught me how to be more vocal and taught me to be aggressive.”

Those qualities are becoming more apparent in the midst of Wall’s best season as a pro. Whether it’s delivering a pass right on target or picking up a teammate after a game, Wall has been able to make a positive impact on his team.

Since Wall arrived in D.C., the Wizards roster has undergone nearly a complete overhaul. Only three members remain from Wall’s 2010 debut. One of the three, forward Trevor Booker, has been the beneficiary of Wall’s leadership.

“I’ve seen a tremendous difference in him,” said forward Trevor Booker, who was drafted with Wall in 2010. “He’s grown, not only in his game but as a person.”

With Wall growing into his role as team leader, the time is now for the Wizards to make their mark in the Eastern Conference.

“It all starts with me,” said Wall. “How I start the game, playing defense, getting to the ball, putting pressure on the opposing point guard and still adding pace to the game. Getting everybody involved and touching the ball. Everything starts with me being a leader.”

With that attitude, Wall is leading Washington to its best season since 2007-2008. The Wizards have flirted with .500 for much of the season and are 25-27 at the break, good for sixth in the conference. 

While Wall has never been more vital to his team’s success, his approach hasn’t changed.

“The greatest thing about John is his competitive nature,” teammate Martell Webster said. “He has been very consistent with that. It bleeds throughout the team.”

By combining a unique skill set with a relentless work ethic, Wall is averaging career highs in points (20.1) and assists (8.5). But the numbers don’t tell the whole story. Along with the development of his leadership, Webster said Wall also has the ‘it’ factor, the mysterious intangible that helps life the play of others.

“The most important thing to do when you have the maestro like that is to encourage him,” said Webster. “One thing I tell him is that he shouldn’t feel like he has to be Superman all the time.”

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