Lyric Johnson’s eyes widened as she walked in a room an saw Washington Wizards superstar John Wall.
The 12-year-old who will start seventh grade this month at Jefferson Middle School Academy in southwest D.C. smiled as the All-Star point guard handed her black Adidas backpack filled with pencils, paper, a pencil sharpener and other school supplies and a pair of John Wall socks.
“I’m was happy” to meet Wall, she said Saturday after playing a game of air hockey with her parents and brother inside Dave & Busters in Capitol Heights, Maryland.
Lyric and hundreds of other students in kindergarten through 12th grade attended Wall’s sixth annual back-to-school charity event to distribute 500 backpacks to local children.
Wall also offered advice and words of encouragement to the students.
“You can take the money away and I would still play the game because I love it that much,” he said of his chosen profession. “To show these kids that whatever you want to be — a doctor, a teacher, a fireman … just make sure you lock in and listen to your parents.”
Meanwhile, Wall himself is taking online classes to finish the two years left to receive his bachelor’s degree in business management from the University of Kentucky. He left the school after his freshman year and was drafted number one by the Wizards in 2010.
Wall said he’s keeping a promise to his parents that he would receive a college degree, even if he’s not especially keen on the required schoolwork to get there.
“No, I don’t want to talk about back to school,” he said to reporters. “I just finished my last exam for math this semester.”
Wall will have time to study as he continues to rehabilitate a left Achilles injury which could possibly keep him out the entire 2019-20 season. The Wizards announced in February that he would miss a year of basketball activities.
A four-year, $171 million supermax contract extension Wall signed in 2017 also begins next season.
Wall said didn’t know the exact status of his recovery process, but expressed optimism that he is “making progress.”
“I feel like I’m in solitary,” he said jokingly before thanking the organization.
“It’s great to have an organization that cares for me, understands me and respect me and not trying to force me to come back super early,” he said. “I played through injuries. I want to give everything I have for the organization and the city. I’m just taking my time.”
In the meantime, youth such as Chase McKinney, 6, sported John Wall Foundation T-shirts and clutched their new backpacks.
As his dad, Billy McKinney, looked through his son’s bag, he saw the John Wall socks.
“I’m going to keep these for myself,” he said with a smile.