Any 6’10” basketball player can block a high proportion of shots in high school if they try hard enough however at the college basketball level it takes a certain amount of savvy and knowledge to block shots and stay out of foul trouble.
This is why Nerlens Noel’s decision to play for Kentucky says a lot about his character. He was a great defensive player in high school and now he has chosen to be the guy that replaces Anthony Davis at Kentucky.
Anyone who is willing to step into the shadow of the college player of the year, freshman of the year, not to mention the defensive player of the year, must truly believe in themselves.
Every game he plays for John Calipari next season will see Noel being compared to Anthony Davis, who also won an NCAA championship.
“I hope that Kentucky fans are expecting us to go back-to-back because that’s what I expect,” said Noel. “It’s championship or bust there, and I’m OK with that.”
Noels may have already started off on the wrong foot as fans tend to take an instant disliking to players who announce their college choice on national TV such as Noels did along with UCLA bound Shabazz Muhammad.
When Davis arrived at UK he did so with little or no fanfare, there was hype but that was due to his performance on the AAU circuit and in tournaments such as the McDonald’s All-American game.
He was the No.1 ranked recruit but only after a late growth spurt propelled him to such a lofty ranking during his junior year of high school.
Compare this to Harrison Barnes or Austin Rivers who were very visual leading up to their freshman season at North Carolina and Duke, respectively, then suffered a backlash of unnecessary criticism when they struggled to live up to expectations as first year players.
Noel may be the exception, the guy that plays the media game well and is able to back it up with his game.
If he doesn’t, consider Loren Woods? He was a 7’1” center who had to transfer to Arizona due to the pressure of following Tim Duncan at Wake Forest.
Woods went on to help Arizona receive a No.1 seed in the 2000 NCAA tournament, after sitting out the mandatory year for transferring, then helped Arizona reach the NCAA finals, in 2001, where they lost to Duke.
Woods was drafted in the second round of the 2001 NBA draft by Minnesota Timberwolves and is now playing in Iran.
Not that this may be the fate of Noel who has a lot of raw talent but Anthony Davis is a tough act to follow, and only a player with an admirable Jordan like attitude would have no problem taking up the mantle.
One other thing to consider is the team around Davis, such as Michael Kid-Gilchrist, Terrence Jones and Doron lamb, to name a few, all played vital roles in winning John Calipari’s first championship.
Kentucky does have some high ranking recruits coming in but will they be able to gel as quickly as this championship team did? Only time will tell but the man with the flat top does make next season intriguing.