Kentucky may have found the heir apparent to Anthony Davis. Or is it the hair apparent?
Nerlens Noel made a move during the All-American Championships on April 1 in New Orleans during Final Four weekend. (247Sports Photo by Jeff Drummond)
Five-star center Nerlens Noel, the nation's top-ranked player in the Class of 2012, announced on ESPNU Wednesday night that he will join John Calipari's recruiting class at Kentucky.
The 6-foot-11 Noel chose UK over Georgetown and Syracuse. He did so by having the UK logo shaved into the back of his signature high-top fade haircut, which rises 3 or 4 inches off his scalp, and turning to the ESPNU cameras to reveal his destination.
"I just thought it was the best fit for me, personally," Noel told the ESPNU studio hosts. "I talked to my mom. She liked it as well. She liked all three schools, but when it came down to it she liked Kentucky. She met coach Orlando (Antigua) and coach Calipari, and they just had a great idea (for how he would fit into the UK program)."
Noel is widely regarded as the best high school shot-blocker in a generation and could immediately step into the role that Davis played so well during the Wildcats' national championship run. Davis, also widely recognized by his hair feature, the most famous unibrow in sports, set a UK single-season blocks record (186) as a freshman and helped the Cats break the NCAA team record (344) while earning multiple national player of the year honors. He is now expected to be the No. 1 pick in this summer's NBA Draft.
"Just watching on TV with what they did with Anthony Davis, my mom felt like it was the best fit for me, and I did too," Noel said.
Noel, a Massachusetts native who played this season at the Tilton School in New Hampshire, helped lead the Boston Athletic Basketball Club to the prestigious Nike EYBL championship last summer. In an 84-67 title game romp over Memphis YOMCA, he scored 17 points, grabbed 10 rebounds, blocked six shots, dished out five assists and recorded four steals. He had two triple-doubles during the event, including one game with 12 blocked shots.
The addition of Noel gives the Cats four players in the Class of 2012 to date. He joins five-star Arkansas shooting guard Archie Goodwin, five-star Tennessee combo forward Alex Poythress and four-star Kansas center Willie Cauley on the current signee list.
He was joined in the ESPNU studio by Goodwin and Poythress, who were all on hand in Charlotte, N.C., for the Jordan Brand Classic. The future teammates were clearly excited about the decision.
“Obviously, he’s a dynamic player on defense,” Goodwin said. “He’s got a lot of athletic ability, long arms and great timing on defense… He’s just another Anthony Davis in my eyes. He doesn’t need offense to impact the game.”
Noel said the fellow UK recruits helped swing the decision in the Cats' favor after the Final Four. “They both hit me up. They said, ‘Do you want to do that next season?’ I really thought about it, and that’s what pushed my decision over the top."
Kentucky's tournament run, culminated by an eighth national championship, made a big impression on Noel.
"Watching what they were able to do with the young players that they had, it did factor in quite a bit and opened my eyes," he said.
Kentucky is expected to sign at least two more players in this class. The Cats will likely lose all five starters from this year's championship team to the NBA Draft as well as seniors Darius Miller and Eloy Vargas. That would leave point guard Ryan Harrow, swingman Jon Hood, forward Kyle Wiltjer and guard Twany Beckham as the only returning scholarship players on the roster.
Players like five-star Nevada forward Anthony Bennett, five-star Pennsylvania forward Amile Jefferson and five-star Mississippi forward Devonta Pollard are some of the highest-rated prospects still available in the class. They are all ranked among the nation's Top 25 prospects by 247Sports.
Earlier Wednesday night, UK target Shabazz Muhammad announced he would be signing with UCLA.
Calipari is seeking his fourth consecutive No. 1 ranked recruiting class since coming to UK in 2009.