What now for Noel, Kentucky after injury?
by David Leon Moore, USA TODAY Sports
In the immediate aftermath of the awkward landing and unlucky twist of Nerlens Noel’s left knee Tuesday night and the subsequent diagnosis — torn anterior cruciate ligament, out for the season — the issues related to the injury are reverberating in many directions.
Noel and his family. The 6-10 freshman superstar, the son of Haitian immigrants, is John Calipari’s latest prodigy at Kentucky and was expected to be the first pick in this year’s NBA draft. But now he’s facing a possible dilemma of bolting for the pros or getting healthy for a second year in Lexington.
Kentucky. Beginning to round into form, with Noel at the core of the improvement, the defending champion Wildcats have sustained a serious blow to their ambitions of becoming an NCAA title contender.
The NCAA tournament. An event that has become hungry for marketable stars amid the rush of players to get to the NBA after just a year or two in college is bemoaning the loss of Noel, a dynamic young star in the mold of Anthony Davis, the intimidating shot-blocker that led Kentucky to last year’s title.
The NBA. So many of the NBA’s top picks in recent years have had serious injuries both before and after the draft. Some have eventually worked out (see Irving, Kyrie) and some have not (see Oden, Greg). Will the team with the first pick in the June draft see the evidence of what Noel can do — he averaged 10.5 points, 9.5 rebounds and led the nation with 4.4 blocks per game — or will they see the scalpel that sliced into Noel’s knee just four months before the draft?
Kentucky said Noel will be out six to eight months, which is the same timetable given recently by U.S. ski team officials after Olympic skier Lindsey Vonn tore her ACL and MCL in a training crash.