As the Kentucky faithful are quickly approaching Big Blue Madness, fans are eager to learn as much as possible about the new players on the 2012-13 basketball roster. With that in mind, this will be the second submission in a series of articles discussing all of the newcomers for this season's team.
The highest-ranked recruit and most hyped prospect on this year's team is Nerlens Noel. He is expected to feature as the team's primary shot-blocker and defensive anchor in the post.
Noel is a freak athlete who possesses a 6'10", 230-pound frame and is expected to start at center. His key attribute is his defensive prowess, and fans are expecting him to replicate the success that Anthony Davis had last season in the shot-blocking department.
This is a monumental task for any player to fulfill, but if anyone could do it, it is Noel. He was just as dominant at shot-blocking during high school as Davis was, if not more so. Unlike Davis, Noel has been a legitimate big man for years and has had more time to learn the ins and outs of anchoring the paint on defense. His timing is phenomenal, and that should translate easily into the college game.
In terms of replacing Davis' defensive impact, Noel will actually block shots in a different manner. Anthony Davis blocked a number of perimeter shots and also racked up blocks as a weak-side helper. Noel is likely to be more of a straight-up shot-swatter and likely won't feast on perimeter shots as much as Davis did.
Long story short, Nerlens will have a huge impact on the defensive end and should end up near the national leaders in blocked shots. However, his offensive game is the big unknown heading into the season and will be one of the key factors in the Wildcats contending for a NCAA title.
Nerlens has shown potential as an impact inside scorer by showing off an array of hook shots, putbacks and dunks. However, most of his offensive game is close to the rim, and he appears to be pretty raw as a low-post scorer.
He has yet to show the ability to step away from the basket and drain mid-range jumpers, which was a nice part of Davis' game last year. This is certainly not an essential skill for Noel to develop as of yet, but it would expand his effectiveness and give the team a great kickout option for slashers driving to the rim.
Therefore, Nerlens will likely stick to the paint on offense and leave the perimeter shooting and spacing to everyone else. It will be imperative that he develops as an offensive rebounder who can extend possessions and convert second-chance points for the team.
If he can simply be an average offensive player, he should have a very successful year. His impact on defense will be felt all across the country, and a lot of this team's success rides on his ability to anchor the team on that side of the ball.
Assuming that the above scenarios go as planned, Noel should average around nine or 10 points, eight rebounds and three or four blocks per game. Nerlens Noel will be a special player in Lexington and should continue the strong lineage of dominant Kentucky big men.
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