College Basketball Recruiting: 7 Schools Left for Superstar Center Nerlens Noel

Eric HampfordContributor IIIFebruary 3, 2012

College Basketball Recruiting: 7 Schools Left for Superstar Center Nerlens Noel

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    The basketball world was rocked this week by the news that 6'10" center Nerlens Noel will be reclassifying to his original graduating high school class this year. This is huge news for college basketball fans of one of the lucky seven programs still in the hunt for the young star.

    Starting this fall, the now best center prospect in the class of 2012 will become an immediate game changer for either an ACC, Big East or SEC school. He is the absolute best shot-blocker at the high school level since Greg Oden in 2006.

    His offensive game is rapidly developing as well, so not only will his future school be getting an absolute terror on the defensive end, but an evolving offensive threat who will undoubtedly be a one-and-done prospect and 2013 NBA Draft lottery pick.

    Here are the seven programs who are still in the running to land the best center recruit in high school basketball.

Connecticut Huskies

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    The Connecticut Huskies are one of the two local schools vying for the Everett, Massachusetts native. I would consider them to be one of the favorites to land Nerlens Noel for a variety of reasons.

    First and foremost, the proximity to his hometown is a major bonus. Storrs, Connecticut is a mere 90 miles from Everett, making it very easy for family and friends to see him play home games.

    The fact that the Huskies are coming off of a 2011 National Championship season has to be appealing as well. Coach Jim Calhoun could also have Connecticut coming into next season as one of the favorites to win the 2013 National Championship.

    There is talk of incredibly gifted freshman center Andre Drummond returning next season. If he does return, he potentially could be surrounded by point guards Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright, small forward DeAndre Daniels and power forwards Alex Oriakhi and Roscoe Smith.

    Also joining him in the the Huskies' 2012 recruiting class would be New York City star shooting guard Omar Calhoun, a 6'3" 4-star prospect, according to ESPN.com.

Florida Gators

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    The Florida Gators are one of the more surprising teams in the running for the Northeast star. However, they have their own appeal that could help sway Nerlens Noel.

    The Gators are coached by Billy Donovan, who has a proven track record of getting his players to the NBA. Also, they could be a preseason top 5 team next year.

    If the NBA doesn't poach star guards Kenny Boynton and Brad Beal, as well as power forward Patric Young, Florida will be loaded for the 2012-2013 season.

    They also will be returning talented shooting guard Mike Rosario, as well as 6'10" power forward Erik Murphy. Incoming freshman next season would be top 50 point guard Braxton Ogbueze, a 4-star prospect, as well as 6'4" shooting guard Michael Frazier, a 3-star prospect.

    The Florida Gators are a long shot to land the 6'10" center, but I've seen stranger things happen on the recruiting trail.

Georgetown Hoyas

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    Another long shot in the Nerlens Noel sweepstakes are the Georgetown Hoyas. Although they have a proven, well-liked coach in John Thompson III, I don't think they have the firepower to land the elite center.

    However, one aspect of the Big East program that helps them is their tradition of producing top-flight, defensive star big men. That could be a huge selling point for the youngster. 

    The latest Georgetown product to parlay his college pedigree at Georgetown into NBA success is Detroit Pistons cornerstone Greg Monroe, one of the brightest young stars in the league.

Kentucky Wildcats

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    As long as John Calipari is calling the shots in Lexington, the Kentucky Wildcats will always be in the conversation to land the best and brightest recruits each year.

    Elite recruits love to play for Coach Cal, specifically because he bases his recruiting effort on getting the kids to campus for one season, and willingly lets them explore their NBA options afterward. Kentucky also has proved to be the main training ground for future professional athletes.

    In just three years at the helm at UK, John Calipari has produced an amazing nine players who are currently playing professionally. That has to hold some weight whenever a prospect is thinking of suiting up for Kentucky.

North Carolina Tar Heels

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    The North Carolina Tar Heels are a program that can sell themselves. They are college basketball royalty, fielding star teams each and every year.

    If Nerlens Noel decides to attend North Carolina, he can be guaranteed to be surrounded by several other NBA prospects, such as James Michael McAdoo, Kendall Marshall and Reggie Bullock. They also will be bringing in a powerful 2012 recruiting class, led by point guard Marcus Paige.

    There's no denying that Nerlens Noel would look good donning baby blue with his high-top fade. It's just a matter of time until we know if he feels the same way.

Providence Friars

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    The most interesting team battling for Nerlens Noel are the Providence Friars. First year head coach Ed Cooley is generating a huge buzz in Rhode Island with his recruiting prowess.

    For next season, he already has landed 2012 High School All-Americans Kris Dunn and Ricardo Ledo. The backcourt tandem are both ranked in the top 20 players in America and are looking to bring the Friars back to prominence on the national level.

    They are also the closest school to Nerlens hometown, a short 54 miles away. As it stands right now, there are some whispers that he could be headed to Providence, especially with Ricardo Ledo doing his best to help recruit the young star to join him next season.

Syracuse Orange

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    The Syracuse Orange are a team that should not be counted out for landing the services of Nerlens Noel. They are getting an official visit from him on February 11th, and you can guarantee that head coach Jim Boeheim will be rolling out the red carpet for him.

    Syracuse is currently the king of the college basketball world, sitting at 22-1 on the season. As we all know, they have their own illustrious history of producing successful teams and even more successful NBA players.

    Their location is also appealing because it is another northeast school situated close to his Massachusetts home, a factor that should not be taken lightly.