Nerlens Noel will enter the 2013 National Basketball Association Draft, it was announced Monday via Kentucky basketball's official Twitter account.
The 6-foot-10 freshman forward is leaving Kentucky after an injury-shortened freshman season that saw him keep pace with Anthony Davis' blocked shots pace through 24 games before tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. Noel finished with 106 blocks, ranking him second on Kentucky's all-time single-season blocks list behind Davis' 186.
"I have loved my time at Kentucky, but I feel that I'm ready to take the next step to the NBA," Noel said in a release. "I've learned so much here at UK and am thankful for Coach (John) Calipari, the staff and my teammates for all of their support. I especially appreciate the Big Blue Nation and all of the support, prayers and well-wishes I've received from them during my rehab and decision-making process. I'll always be a Wildcat!"
Noel's season ended when his left knee buckled as he landed awkwardly and slammed into the basket support after chasing down Florida guard Mike Rosario from behind on a fast break. Despite the injury the defensive savant averaged 10.5 points, 9.5 rebounds, 4.4 blocks and 2.1 steals per game while connecting on 59 percent of his field goal attempts. The Southeastern Conference coaches voted him First Team All-SEC, SEC Freshman of the Year and SEC Defensive Player of the Year.
Noel is still projected as a top three pick in June's draft, and the top overall pick by some NBA Draft analysts.
"I support Nerlens' decision to enter his name in the draft and am excited for him and his future," UK coach John Calipari said. "The hard work and will to win he showed on the floor this year and the dedication and attitude he has shown in his rehab will only be a reward for him and whatever team drafts him in June."