Garner Road alums David West, John Wall meet in NBA playoffs

jgiglio@newsobserver.comMay 13, 2014 

  • High School history

    Before John Wall and David West started battling in the NBA Eastern Conference semifinals, the two starred at local high schools:

     

    Player High School Graduated Highlight
    WallWord of God2009Consensus No. 1 recruit averaged 22.1 points, led team to 1A state championship game.
    WestGarner1998Scored career-high 40 points and added 17 rebounds in final game, a 4-A Eastern Regional loss to Pine Forest.

Dwayne West called Frances Pulley on Friday to ask her if she could work an upcoming tournament for the Garner Road Basketball Club.

Pulley thought West was calling to talk about the NBA playoffs. Both have more than a passing interest in the second-round series between the Indiana Pacers and Washington Wizards.

Pulley’s son, John Wall, is the star point guard of the Wizards. West’s younger brother, David, is the leader of the Pacers.

“Don’t be calling me about the game,” Pulley said to West, before the Pacers took a 2-1 series lead on Friday night.

“Y’all are in trouble,” West said.

“We’ll see,” Pulley replied. “We’ll see.”

Both Pulley and West went up to Washington on Friday night to watch the Pacers’ 85-63 win. The two have worked together at Garner Road since Wall was nine.

“John grew up at Garner Road,” West said. “And his mom, she’s one of the most trusted people in our club. No one gets through the door without going through her.”

David West and Wall have the Garner Road connection, and both played two seasons at Garner High for coach Eddie Gray, but their paths have rarely crossed like this.

Wall, 23, has the Wizards in the playoffs for the first time in his fourth NBA season. The former Kentucky All-American has had a breakout season for the Wizards, who upset the Chicago Bulls in the first round.

West, 33, an 11-year NBA veteran, has emerged as the Pacers’ “rock,” as Indiana coach Frank Vogel called him after he rescued the Pacers in Game 6 of the first round of the playoffs in Atlanta.

West had 24 points, 11 rebounds and six assists in leading the Pacers to a comeback win in Atlanta in an elimination game on May 1.

“I’m really proud of the way he has embraced being a leader,” Dwayne West said. “Being a vet and the ‘voice’ of an NBA team like that, it means a lot.”

West and Wall got together early in Friday’s game in one of the few highlights for the Wizards, who shot only 32.9 percent and made 24 field goals.

West, who at 6-9 has about 5 inches on Wall, spun into the lane for a short jumper. Wall met him and timed his jump perfectly and blocked West’s shot. Wall collected the loose ball, over 7-footer Roy Hibbert, pushed it up the floor and fed Trevor Ariza for a 3-pointer.

Little that Wall does, even all these years later, surprises Gray.

“He’s such a dynamo,” said Gray, who has coached Garner’s basketball team for 25 years. “He has all the tools, you always could see that, he just needed the direction.”

Wall spent his formative years playing at Garner Road, with the gym right down the road from where he grew up near downtown Raleigh. He played seven years for Dwayne West’s club before making a national splash with Brian Clifton’s D-One Sports.

Wall finished his prep career at Raleigh’s Word of God and then starred at Kentucky for one season before becoming the No. 1 overall pick of the 2010 draft.

A knee injury cost Wall about half of the 2012-13 NBA season, but he came back strong and it has carried over to this season. He posted career-best averages of 19.3 points and 8.8 assists per game during the regular season and was a first-time All-Star.

West’s route to the NBA was longer. He grew up in Teaneck, N.J., and moved to Garner before his junior season. After two years with Gray at Garner, he prepped one season at Hargrave Military Academy and then had an outstanding four-year career at Xavier.

A first-round pick of New Orleans in 2003, he spent his first eight seasons with the Hornets (now Pelicans) before signing a free-agent deal with the Pacers in 2011. West, a two-time All-Star, has always had solid numbers (his career scoring average is 15.9 with 7.2 rebounds per game), but with the Pacers’ getting the top seed in the East, over the two-time champion Miami Heat, he’s getting more recognition for his value to the Pacers.

When Dwayne West realized the Pacers would be playing the Wizards in this round, he cringed a little.

“It’s hard,” he said. “I’m rooting for my brother, of course, but I’m really proud of John and I want him to do well.”

Gray normally doesn’t follow the NBA, but with two of his former players in the same series, he has taken notice.

“I was really blessed to be able to coach them both,” Gray said. “To see two kids from the same school in the playoffs, that’s pretty neat.”

Giglio: 919-829-8938

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