Kentucky, Noel have much to learn
by Tim Sullivan, USA TODAY Sports
LEXINGTON, Ky. — Nerlens Noel has a wingspan worthy of a bald eagle, and the light touch of a longshoreman.
He is more size than skill, more potential than polish and considerably less than he will be if he figures out how to finish around the basket. The University of Kentucky’s ballyhooed freshman stands 6-10 or so, depending on the altitude of his hi-top fade, and his raw talent is as conspicuous as his coiffure.
Yet last year’s USA TODAY High School Player of the Year is not nearly as far advanced as was Anthony Davis at this stage of last season, nor as physical or refined as he should be if he wants to declare for next year’s NBA draft. Though hard lessons abounded in UK’s 64-55 loss to Baylor on Saturday afternoon, Wildcat World’s consolation is that John Calipari’s current crop of aspiring one-and-dones may want to stick around for additional seasoning.
Noel seized seven offensive rebounds Saturday but converted only three of his 14 field-goal attempts. His personal shot chart suggested a man shooting blowdarts at a peephole rather than basketballs at point-blank range. He made two layups, one dunk and missed every other contested shot.
“I guess,” Noel said, “I didn’t have enough touch.”
Noel wasn’t alone in his inaccuracy. Kentucky missed 50 of its 71 field-goal attempts, a .296 conversion rate narrowly worse than last season’s New Year’s Eve low (.298) against Louisville. But while Kyle Wiltjer (1-for-11), Julius Mays (2-for-9) and Ryan Harrow (1-for-9) all contributed to the Cats’ collective futility Saturday, most of their misses were launched from the perimeter.
Noel, however, plays in the paint, most recently like a man trying to catch butterflies with tweezers. The shortest distance between two points, evidently, was not short enough.
“We had 21 offensive rebounds, folks, and we had six points (as a result),” Calipari said in summary. “We are not very strong. We got the ball, (but) we couldn’t get it in the basket.”
In point of fact, the Wildcats were credited with eight “second-chance” points, not the six Calipari counted, but you would think pedigreed players could do better than that … [For more on Kentucky, Noel have much to learn after loss to Baylor, click here.]