"We just came out and played," Wall remembered. "We were undefeated in camp. That's one thing I like is winning. Even though it's a camp, you still want to win."
Starting this morning and ending Saturday afternoon, there will be wall-to-wall games involving more than 100 high school players hoping to get noticed. This is not a national all-star camp like the one Wall played his way into in 2007. There are no players with national reputations like Jennings had then. The aptly named Reebok Breakout Challenge is more of a camp for nice players hoping to be seen. Wall can relate.
There is a revealing sign hanging on the wall next to the court. It reads: "This court and stage was the exact place where my basketball career took a major turn. I didn't realize how big the opportunity was until I saw what came from it. I came here just some kid from North Carolina. I felt like I left as John Wall."
Wall blew up that July in Herb Magee's House. And his world would never be the same. By 2009, he was the top high school player in the country. He was so good in his one season at Kentucky that he was the No. 1 pick in the 2010 NBA draft.
And if Blake Griffin did not have the misfortune of getting hurt and missing what would have been his rookie season in 2009-2010, Wall would have been the 2011 NBA Rookie of the Year. Griffin, of course, won that award after a ridiculous first season. Wall, however, put up serious numbers for a seriously bad Washington team, averaging 16.4 points and 8.3 assists.
But it all began at Philly U. So, Wall came back to spend some time around a new group of kids trying to get noticed just like that skinny kid.
"I noticed after the first game everybody was talking about me," Wall remembered. "I just wanted to keep it up and show everybody that it wasn't a fluke."
It was definitely no fluke.
Reebok has gotten out of the all-star summer-camp business. Four years ago, the players were staying in hotels and bused to the gym. Now, they are staying in dorms on campus. It is very much old-school. And Wall will be there as a "coach."
"The whole focus is opportunity," said Brian Lee, head of Reebok Global Basketball. "When we signed John, this seemed like just a perfect fit because this is how John made his name. The main focus is to give these kids an opportunity and a platform and just to show them what an opportunity can become."
All the players at this camp had to try out, just like Wall back then. This group includes terrific guard Rysheed Jordan (Robert Vaux) and Miles Overton (Doug's son, from St. Joe's Prep).
"You wouldn't have known who John Wall was until that first day," Lee said.
And then everybody knew. Most of the top college coaches were in the gym that summer. They came to see other players. They left hoping to get John Wall. John Calipari was then at Memphis, but when he got the Kentucky job in the spring of 2009, Wall quickly followed. His one season there was sort of like that first game at Philly U. Everybody just sort of knew.
There was not much debate about the first pick in the draft last year. Just like there wasn't much doubt about how good John Wall was after that week in Philly.
"Everybody knew who I was back home, but this was a good opportunity for me to get known nationally," Wall said. "It felt different when we went to Vegas afterward and people were saying my name when I walked in the gym."
It was different.
Now, Wall is here to tell his story.
"There are no All-Americans here, really, just people that are unknown," he said. "It's great for me to interact with them and tell them how I did it."