Heralded basketball recruit Nerlens Noel heard plenty of sales pitches from coaches over the last few years. But there’s nothing quite like the very real prospect of winning a national championship to lure an impressionable teenager to your school.
Noel, the top-ranked prospect in the ESPNU 100, announced Wednesday that he will follow a recent train of elite players to Kentucky, where the restocked Wildcats will aim to defend their national championship.
Not exactly the shocking decision some might have expected after the 6-foot-10 forward tweeted on Monday “Gon shock the world!!” But maybe he was simply referring to the manner in which he would announce his choice.
Two years ago, Harrison Barnes committed to North Carolina via Skype. On Wednesday, Noel only needed a pair of clippers.
“I’ll be taking my talents for college to play at the University of...” Noel said on ESPNU before turning in his chair to reveal a “UK” logo shaved in the back of his flat top.
It was a nice touch, and for coach John Calipari, it means another top-ranked recruiting class with the talent to make another title run.
Freshmen Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Marquis Teague are expected to announce their decisions to enter the NBA draft in the wake of Kentucky’s championship run. Senior Darius Miller is also bound for the draft and sophomores Doron Lamb and Terrence Jones could follow. The deadline to decide whether to enter the draft is April 29.
Noel — who chose Kentucky over Georgetown and Syracuse — joins an already stacked class that includes small forward Alex Poythress, guard Archie Goodwin and 7-footer Willie Cauley. The Wildcats also return sharpshooting sophomore Kyle Wiltjer and guard Ryan Harrow.
“I just thought it was the best fit for me personally,” Noel said. “I talked to my mom and she liked it as well. She liked all three schools, but when it came down to it, she liked Kentucky, Coach Orlando (Antigua), Coach Cal. I see what they did with Anthony Davis, she thought it was the best fit for me, and I did too.”
But Calipari failed to make the massive splash on National Signing Day that some had expected as Shabazz Muhammad picked UCLA, turning down offers from Kentucky, Kansas, Duke and UNLV.
A versatile 6-foot-6 wing, Muhammad immediately elevates the Bruins back into the national picture after a dismal season that saw Ben Howland’s team go 19-14. UCLA has not advanced beyond the second round of the NCAA tournament since 2009.