A Return Home

“The thing I’m most proud about is that he remembers where he came from,” exclaimed Eddie Gray, the Head Basketball Coach at Garner High School.

Coach Eddie Gray

John Wall has not forgotten where he came from.

Wall attended Garner High School in Garner, North Carolina for the 9th and 10th grade and played for Coach Gray before moving to nearby Raleigh. He would end up playing for Word of God Christian Academy for his final two years of high school.

Gray, who coached Wall while he attended Garner, had a long list of superlatives about Wall and his best friend Ty Williams, who played alongside Wall at Garner. He also couldn’t help but appreciate watching the two of them as young athletes play with their older counterparts.

“It was amazing. It was so fun to watch them, even practice was fun, and it was spirited, but always in a good way.”

Wall & Williams

He marveled at their talent then, but now has seen the growth and maturity that they carry and admires the way Wall has not forgotten his roots.

Wall spent time during a late August weekend back where it all began, in his hometown of Raleigh, North Carolina to relax and catch up with family.

Much of that catching up was spent dominating his cousins on the outdoor basketball court that sits behind the beautiful Raleigh home where his mother, Frances Pulley, now resides. But, even as Wall beat cousin after cousin in three-point contests, they were still happy to have him back in town.

Wall's Old Apartment

“It’s always great when John comes home… He’s the same, he talks a lot of trash and tries to bully you, so you need to stand up to him or he’ll run all over you. He’s the same, just competitive and always wants to win,” said Reggie Jackson, one of Wall’s cousins in attendance.

Each and every cousin that spoke about Wall talked about his competitiveness as a kid and how he never liked to lose. He had an edge to him and hated to fail in anything he did.

“When I was a little kid, I was super competitive, that’s what made me who I am today,” said Wall.

Wall Plays Ball with Family at New Raleigh Home

But, while much of the time was spent talking trash outside on the court; this was Raleigh which meant there was plenty of southern hospitality to go around and enough food to feed an army.

Chicken, mac & cheese, biscuits, green beans and even pig feet made up part of the menu served by Wall’s mother, who by multiple accounts made ‘the best mac & cheese in the world.’

A calm summer night in Raleigh deserved nothing less, and this was just part of Wall’s return to his homeland.

The next day, Wall was up bright and early to visit Hunter Elementary School in Raleigh to visit kids on their first day of school.

This was done along with Reebok’s BOKS program, which is designed to promote physical activity for kids and emphasizes that this be done first thing in the morning.

Wall Participates in BOKS Program

“Our philosophy is active kids equals active minds,” said Ewunike Akpan, the DC Area Coordinator for BOKS program.

Wall spent the first part of the morning addressing the kids in the gym and answered questions that they prepared for him.

He talked about everything from doing multiplication tables in the third grade to his warm-up routine in the NBA.

CLICK HERE FOR PHOTOS

After the address and Q&A were over, Wall and the hundreds of kids went outside to start the physical portion of the day.

Twelve stations were setup with games and activities that ranged from Sharks and Minnows to Red Light Green Light.

The kids got a real thrill to play these childhood games with an NBA star like Wall and even the teachers took joy in seeing Wall participate with their students.

“It was great having Wall here for our first day of school, he made everything a lot of fun,” said Chad Oliver, a Phys. Ed teacher at Hunter Elementary School who set up many of the activities for the day.

“I love giving back to my community and the best part is coming back to my hometown and doing it so close to where I used to live… Giving these kids a chance to see that you can make it through the struggle and fulfill your dreams,” said Wall.

Wall Poses with Students

This day of giving had an hour long break, while the older students swapped places with the younger ones, which gave WashingtonWizards.com and the Wizards TV crew a chance to get a tour of the Raleigh John Wall grew up in.

*Editors Note – Stay tuned for exclusive footage of trip coming soon to WashingtonWizards.com.... Click here for bonus footage of Wall & Williams playing video games

A guided tour of the city Wall once called home featured his old apartment, the schools he attended, the playgrounds he used to play on, the restaurants he ate in, along with many funny stories told by Williams.

While Williams had a sense of humor about their upbringing now, some of the stories were not as funny at the time.

Such as the time Wall, Williams, and their friends had all of their gear stolen from a local park by some older men who threatened them. This was real life in their old neighborhood.

Wall and Williams played one year of football when they were in middle school, but limited playing time ended that idea rather quickly. Though, according to Williams, Wall says he could have been one heck of a quarterback given the chance. The two said it was their basketball coach who wanted them to play in order to keep them out of trouble.

One of Wall’s favorite dining spots was also featured on this pseudo tour; a little place called ‘Virgil’s Jamaica’ where he used to feast on beef patties.

Virgil's Jamaica

Williams showed where the two used to play ball as youngsters growing up in Raleigh and showed off the Garner Road YMCA, where Wall used to go by the name ‘Crazy J’. Part of the name came from his immense talent, but also because of his attitude growing up. According to many family members, Wall carried a bit of an attitude with him as a teenager, but all were quick to point out that he always had a good heart and was a great kid to be with.

“He’s always been John. He had something special from the time he was young, his work ethic was really good, he was known as ‘Crazy J’ at the Boy’s Club, but I never thought he had an attitude,” said Bambi Hill, who coached Wall as a pre-teen back in Raleigh.

Whatever Wall was like growing up, he has morphed into a mature and caring individual who certainly has not forgotten the people and places that helped shape his life.

“He tells me to stay focused because a lot of opportunities have opened up and that I need to continue to go through school and look forward to life after college,” said Jackson.

Raleigh Basketball Court

Wall now serves as a mentor to many of his family members and has shown them that hard work and perseverance pays off.

“I’m like a big brother to a lot of them and I like to give them advice now that I’m in a position to do so,” said Wall.

When told we were doing a story on John Wall, the principal of Garner High School (Assistant Principal when Wall attended), Drew Cook, left us with one statement. “John Wall is a good hearted young man, that’s the truth, make sure everyone knows that.”