Kentucky Basketball: How Good Can They Be with Nerlens Noel?

Liz YoungbloodContributor IIIApril 11, 2012

Kentucky Basketball: How Good Can They Be with Nerlens Noel?

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    The Kentucky Wildcats have done it again. Nerlens Noel committed to play for the Wildcats next season, and as of now the top recruit has given John Calipari his fourth consecutive No. 1 recruiting class.

    But how much of an impact will Noel make?

    Will he be Anthony Davis 2.0, leading Kentucky to its second consecutive national championship?

    Or will he not quite live up to the hype? 

    So far, the vast majority of Calipari’s recruits have been delivered just about as promised. But we’ve already heard enough from scouts and coaches, let’s let Noel himself answer. 

    Social media is the wave of the future and what better outlet do high schoolers have to express themselves than Twitter?

    I am going to analyze a few recent tweets from Noel to predict what kind of a player he will be for Kentucky next season.

Family

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    “After alot of contemplating last night with my family, i feel that they've helped me make the right decision thats best for me”

    Nerlens, you are in good hands with this one. The Kentucky Wildcats are truly a family. Other coaches and teams say it, but it seems that Kentucky is one of the few that actually follows through. 

    John Calipari considers every player he has coached a member of his family. His wife makes players brownies on their birthdays, and when he visits former players who currently play in the NBA, he says that he is going to visit his sons.

    And the players seem to buy into it too. If anyone has seen the video of John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins doing the dougie, you can see that the talk about family is not all for show.

    So if Noel will buy into this system and accept his new teammates and coach as his Kentucky family, he will undoubtedly make a name for himself wearing UK blue. 

    Noel’s post game is raw but rapidly improving. He already has some fairly solid post moves in his repertoire and is becoming more consistent with his jump shot.

    Sounds kind of similar to another new recruit last season named Anthony Davis. Davis’ post game was virtually nonexistent when he got to Kentucky, but he listened to his coaches, accepted instruction and became the best player in the country. 

    By all accounts, Noel seems to be a kid who is ready to learn. He undoubtedly saw Davis’ improvement last year and knows that he could be next in line to dominate the paint.

Tough Decision

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    “Toughest decision of my life”

    Of course it is. Choosing between traditional powers like the Georgetown Hoyas, Syracuse Orange and Kentucky Wildcats is never an easy task.

    But in thinking about where Nerlens Noel would fit in best, Kentucky does seem like the best choice. 

    With the presumed departure of Anthony Davis for the NBA and even losing Eloy Vargas to graduation, the Wildcats are sorely in need of a big man.

    Noel is listed at 6’10” but has the wingspan of someone much taller. He will be one of the best shot blockers in the country and can live down low in the Wildcats’ offense.

    Calipari has shown that he is not afraid of relying on one player to anchor the post. First, he had DeMarcus Cousins, then Josh Harrellson and finally Anthony Davis.

    The dribble drive offense is still extremely effective with a post player because slashing guards can either throw alley-oops or simply dish to a wide-open teammate underneath the basket. 

    If Noel commands double teams, he has shown that he is a very capable passer from the post and should be able to find teammates for open shots.

    With fellow recruit Willie Cauley backing him up underneath, Noel won’t have the same pressure Davis faced to stay on the court, allowing him to be more aggressive on offense and defense.

Excitement

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    “I havent been this excited in a while”

    And who wouldn’t be? Big Blue Nation is one of the best places to play in the country.

    Would any other school burn couches and overturn cars after advancing to the national championship game? Well, probably, but no one else would do it quite as enthusiastically.

    Kentucky Wildcats’ fans are the craziest, most obsessed fans in college basketball—there is no better place to play than in Rupp Arena. Fans cheer for the entire game, whether you are playing Middle Tennessee State or the North Carolina Tar Heels. 

    I guarantee that Kentucky fans all over the country are tweeting and facebooking their congratulations to Noel as I type.

    Would any other fanbase make unibrow masks for people to wear during games? Or “Bow to the Brow” t-shirts? 

    Kentucky is unique, and Noel should certainly be excited to play for such a rabid fanbase. 

    Can the addition of Noel vault this 2012 edition of the Wildcats back into the national championship picture? Most definitely. 

    Noel, combined with Willie Cauley, Alex Poythress and Archie Goodwin gives Kentucky the balance that the team has thrived on in past seasons. 

    With so many departures from the 2011-12 team, many current Wildcats players will be asked to step into bigger roles this season. 

    And as this past year has shown us, a team built on the skills of freshman and the leadership of upperclassmen is the perfect combination to do great things. 

    Get excited Noel, all of Kentucky is.

Birthday Celebration

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    “11 mins till my BIRTHDAY crazy excitedd !!!”

    Okay, not entirely sure what this tweet indicates about basketball, but who doesn’t love a kid that is excited for his birthday?

    One of the best things about this year’s Kentucky Wildcats basketball team was the utter joy and excitement they showed when playing together. 

    Michael Kidd-Gilchrist had a permanent smile on his face whenever the team did well, and even normally stoic Terrence Jones had occasion to let lose every once in a while. 

    If Noel can bring the youthful energy and exuberance the Cats showed this year, the team will be better for it. Players will be more relaxed and the team will bond more quickly. 

    Either way, I hope Noel had a good birthday. I bet Mrs. Calipari will be sending him brownies any minute now.

Shock the World

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    “Gon shock the world !!”

    That’s what I like to hear! Nerlens Noel is ready for success and not afraid to say so. 

    His confidence will be key to energizing his Kentucky Wildcats teammates. It will be important for the team not to feel too much pressure and for veterans not to feel a let down after last year’s starters depart. 

    If Noel can translate his swagger and excitement into big plays and assertive play, all of the Wildcats will begin to think that the team can “shock the world.”

    Noel has the kind of skills that will allow him to make high-energy plays in order to spur on his team.

    His shot blocking ability will frustrate opponents and lead to easy fast breaks for Kentucky on offense. There is no better feeling in basketball than denying your opponent a chance to score, then following up a defensive stand with a dunk going the other way. 

    Noel has also shown skills similar to Anthony Davis in which he tries to keep the ball in bounds after he blocks a shot, which highlights his awareness.

    On offense, Noel has improved his game dramatically and can provide Kentucky with a boost underneath if its guards are struggling on the perimeter.

    With his skill set and an ever-improving game, Noel is poised to do great things in college. Good thing he’s ready for it.

Opportunity

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    "The secret of success in life is for a man to be ready for his opportunity when it comes."

    Nerlens Noel, are you ready? Judging by this quote, I would have to say yes. Noel knows how to make the most of his opportunities.

    Noel was supposed to graduate from high school in 2013 after battling some knee problems, but then the Hoopball Classic rolled around and, simply put, Noel dominated.

    He scored 22 points to go along with eight blocks and definitively outplayed Michigan signee Mitch McGary. So what did Noel do? He reclassified to his original grade and is now graduating in 2012.

    Noel saw an opportunity to capitalize on his big game. And likely, he saw that the Kentucky Wildcats would have very large shoes to fill after losing Anthony Davis to the NBA. 

    If a high school senior is so aware of a unique chance to capitalize on his situation, it should bode well for his time on the basketball court. 

    Noel can see the floor well and is able to pick and choose when to take his man one-on-one and when to kick the ball out to an open teammate.

    Knowing the game is an integral part of basketball success and it is not easy for big men to pick up on. If Noel is already showing that he can sense the flow of the game and know when to get himself involved, Kentucky has found a great player.  

Championship Number Nine

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    "#BBN yall ready to get #9 ?!?!"

    Yes, yes they are! Big Blue Nation is absolutely always ready for another national championship.

    Yes, the Kentucky Wildcats just won their first title in 14 years earlier this month, but does that stop fans from angling for another? Absolutely not.

    After all, in John Calipari’s words, Kentucky has to catch UCLA

    Clearly Nerlens Noel understands not just the pressure, but the way Kentucky basketball works. Every player wants to be the next star who can bring home a championship. And Noel has all the tools to do so. 

    His skills on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball, combined with the talented guards Calipari has already signed to the team makes for a lethal combination. 

    When one of the best players on a team has an ultimate goal of hoisting up a championship trophy, the rest of the team will likely feel the same way. 

    Okay Nerlens, Big Blue Nation is ready, let’s start the quest for number nine!