Nerlens Noel: Star Recruit Must Fix Eligibility Issues to Keep Kentucky on Top
The Wildcats'—and nation's— top recruit isn't yet a lock to be eligible when Kentucky takes the floor later this year in its attempt to defend the national title.
Nerlens Noel, Scout.com’s No. 1 basketball recruit in the nation and the jewel of Kentucky’s top-ranked 2012 class, reportedly is taking summer classes at Everett (Mass.) High to boost his grade-point average to the NCAA standard.
Now, it's obviously still early, and passing a few summer classes shouldn't be as tough as dominating competition on the court day in and day out (and head coach John Calipari seems confident there will be no eligibility issues), but this could potentially be catastrophic for the Wildcats.
If Kentucky isn't able to suit up the nation's No. 1 center and owner of the best haircut in high school, things suddenly get much bleaker.
The Wildcats must replace Anthony Davis, Doron Lamb, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Terrence Jones, Marquis Teague and Darius Miller. Those are the six main players—and almost 100 percent of the production—from a team that led Kentucky to a national championship this past season.
Of course, if anyone can rebuild in a year after losing all of that talent, it's Calipari's Kentucky squad, as the Wildcats are constantly bringing in top classes.
But the No. 2 recruiting class in the country suddenly gets a lot worse without Noel.
The projected No. 1 pick in the 2013 NBA Draft brings a lot of the same tools Davis brought to the team. He's long, athletic and can block shots better than any other high-schooler in the nation.
Noel is a bit more of a true center than Davis, but the end result and production are both similar. And when you are trying to turn a bunch of uber-young, talented kids into a national championship team, having a defensive presence in the middle is one of the best things to build around.
Without Noel, Kentucky would finish the season ranked...
It's a big reason why Kentucky's 2011-12 young squad was able to win the national title and why the 2010-11 youngsters fell just short.
It's also a reason why the Cats would potentially be in trouble without Noel in 2012-13.
A lineup of N.C. State transfer Ryan Harrow, freshmen Archie Goodwin, Alex Poythress, Willie Cauley and returning sharp-shooter Kyle Wiltjer isn't too shabby.
But a potential loss of Noel would subtract depth and an important, dominant, big-man presence.
So, while Kentucky fans are used to rooting for their players to crush opponents on the court, it's time to start rooting for Noel to hit the books instead.
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