By all accounts, five-star center recruit Nerlens Noel has narrowed his college choices to Syracuse, Kentucky and Georgetown. Our latest debate examines where Noel would fit best. We narrow down the choices to defending national champion Kentucky and Syracuse.
Should Noel – a Boston-area native who plays at New Hampshire’s Tilton School – choose to spend what likely will be his lone year in college with John Calipari or Jim Boeheim?
Kentucky Is Top Destination: Nerlens Noel needs just two words to realize he should commit to Kentucky: Anthony Davis.
In his one season in Lexington, Davis became the national player of the year, won a national title, blossomed into the No. 1 overall pick in the 2012 NBA draft and, oh yeah, became a God to the Big Blue Nation with people across the state embracing the unibrow in a myriad of kooky ways. You better believe that as soon as Noel signs with Kentucky, Wildcat fans will flock to the flat-top and embrace it with equal fervor.
If Davis is intimidated by following in Davis’ footsteps then he might want to find another sport because Noel is going to be under the microscope for the rest of his career as someone billed as the No. 1 recruit in the Class of 2012 with comparisons to the great Bill Russell.
There are plenty of other reasons to play for Kentucky as well. While back-to-back national titles might seem insane considering the turnover at UK, we’ve already explained that if Shabazz Muhammad joins Noel in Lexington (which would be really hard for Muhammad to turn down), the Wildcats might be the preseason No. 1 team in America without having even played a game together.
John Calipari’s players not only love the Dribble-Drive Motion Offense that lets them get out and run, they also love playing for a coach that seems like a big kid himself and isn’t afraid to cut loose with them and have fun. Compare that with the perpetually grumpy Jim Boeheim at Syracuse and the stuffy John Thompson III at Georgetown and you see why Coach Cal has a monopoly on one-and-done players.
I know a large portion of the country will gag if Nerlens Noel lands in Lexington but for him it’s a no-brainer. – Jim Weber
Syracuse Is Better Fit: I would hate to be the guy who follows Anthony Davis at Kentucky. And that’s exactly who Noel would be if he chooses the Wildcats.
Noel wouldn’t even be known by his name in Lexington – just the first center at UK in Year One A.D.
If you think I’m exaggerating, consider Davis’ accomplishments in his lone year at Kentucky, which he led to its first national championship since 1998 with a wire-to-wire performance as the best team in the country while winning every award available.
All Noel can do is not live up to that standard, as Bleacher Report pointed out in making a similar case for Noel to choose Syracuse over Kentucky.
Granted, I think the 6-foot-10 Noel – who has been compared to Russell for his defensive prowess – will be a good player no matter where he lands. But I also think that Syracuse is a better fit than Kentucky.
A Massachusetts native, Noel surely would like to play in the atmosphere of the Big East, which remains college basketball’s biggest stage during the regular season. The Orange have yet to make their move to the ACC, so Noel would have the chance to compete in the nation’s best league and at Madison Square Garden for the Big East Tournament – the only conference tourney that matters in college hoops – as “New York’s College Team.”
That’s something that no doubt appeals to someone who has grown up in the Northeast.
And while Syracuse fans may not match the intensity of Kentucky, they are as passionate as anyone else in college basketball and love their heroes as well. Just look at the royal treatment Carmelo Anthony receives when he returns to campus. And Orange fans are desperate to get back to a Final Four after what will be a 10-year hiatus next spring.
Noel also would play for the perfect coach for his skill set, Jim Boeheim, whose 2-3 zone extenuates the length and shot-blocking ability of big men from the recent Fab Melo – the Big East’s Defensive Player of the Year last season – to championship-winning forward Hakim Warrick.
And it doesn’t hurt that Boeheim’s teams, while the program endured tough times off the court in 2011-12, are staples in March.
If I were Noel, I would take my flat-top haircut to Syracuse, where there’s a similar chance at winning a national championship, perhaps more overall exposure and less pressure.
Yes, he would have to play alongside 6-foot-8 center DaJuan Coleman, an incoming four-star freshman for the class of 2012 – though the prospect of that duo should be more attraction than deterrent.
So throw in a friendship with rising ‘Cuse sophomore and fellow Massachusetts native Michael Carter-Williams – a relationship that Bleacher Report described as “close” – and I think that Noel should choose orange over blue.
Leave it to Andrew Luck to follow a legend; Noel can set his own standard. – Anthony Olivieri