Blalock skipped his senior year to turn pro, a decision he would rethink if he had the chance. "It goes by so fast," he says of college. "Kids don't realize." He pauses a beat. "You really miss it."
And so, at just 24, when he should've been hitting his prime, Blalock found himself recovering from a stroke. He underwent heart surgery and was put on blood thinners and Coumadin. The doctors told him his career was on hold for the next seven or eight months. They may as well have told him that he was done. "I felt like that was the beginning of the end," Blalock says. "I didn't know which way was up. I was stressing out every day. It was a tough time."
Blalock began his comeback with the Artland Dragons in Germany in late 2008, and then it was back to the states for another D-League tour last season. Only now does he feel like he's getting his game back together, and the simple act of playing basketball has taken on a new meaning. "After that episode, I felt like a completely different person," Blalock says. "For the people that love me from Boston, just to see me out there, it's big for them."
Dancing with John Wall
After an opening quarter in which Wall basically confirms everyone's belief that he's the second coming, Blalock gets his chance. His job is to make Wall's life difficult, and that means getting up into him defensively and shedding picks set by a seven-foot behemoth named Hamady N'Diaye. Wall very quickly finds out that it won't be as easy to get to the rim against Blalock, who — despite standing only six feet tall — is deceptively strong.
It would be a nice end to this small snapshot of Will Blalock's life if he got into a duel with the phenom and had GMs rushing up to him afterward with contracts in hand. This very scenario will take place several days later when a rookie from Harvard named Jeremy Lin goes off against Wall and winds up with a guaranteed deal from the Warriors. Blalock's experience isn't nearly as dramatic.
Wall finishes the game with 24 points and eight assists and the Wizards win easily. He gets front-page treatment in the Las Vegas paper, while Blalock — after getting only one assist in 18 minutes — is relegated to the "Nonstars" notation in Scott Schroder's D-League blog, Ridiculous Upside.
It's a little unfair, since Blalock spends most of his minutes on offense camped out in the corner, which not only accentuates his biggest weakness (his outside shot), it also negates his best attribute — his ability to run the offense and break defenders down with his dribble.
When he does have a chance to operate, he's able to lay down a move that draws a few oohs and aahs from the crowd, but he isn't able to finish inside and he can't knock down the two open jumpers that come his way. Passes that should become assists are dropped and kickouts for jump shots are missed. "I've been in far worse situations," Blalock says. "If I have my opportunity, even if it's for 20 seconds, it's an opportunity."