Even the cameraman found it difficult to watch Nerlens Noel writhe in pain. (Phil Sandlin / AP)

Update: Noel is out for the rest of the season with a torn ACL

Nerlens Noel, who is expected to be among the top picks in the 2013 NBA draft, faces an uncertain future after suffering a knee injury that raises fresh debate about the NBA’s age requirement.

(Al Messerschmidt / Getty Images)

Noel collided with the base of the basket, seemingly hyperextending his knee in Kentucky’s loss to Florida in Gainesville. He screamed loudly, writhed in pain and was unable to put any weight on the leg as he was carried off the court by teammates Archie Goodwin and Julius Mays.

He was taken to a hospital, where X-rays were negative, and released, then traveled back to Lexington, Ky., with his team. He was to undergo an MRI today.

“It looked ugly,” Kentucky coach John Calipari said. “… I’m physically sick right now for him.”

“His leg was wobbly, [it] looked like his knee was dislocated,” Florida’s Patric Young said (via the Palm Beach Post). “It was gruesome. I don’t even want to think about it.”

Noel, because of the NBA’s age requirement, is ineligible for the draft (he’ll turn 19 in April) and was the target of heated efforts to recruit him for what most observers expected would be one season of college ball. Now, though, Kentucky’s fortunes and Noel’s chances in the NBA are on hold until there’s more information on the extent of his injury. It’s a tough situation to be in, Yahoo’s Pat Forde, writes:

Really, the outcome of Kentucky’s season is secondary, although a significant injury would increase the chances of the 17-7 Wildcats missing the NCAA tournament. The greater issue is Noel’s future, and the way it is put at risk by a system that forced him to play college ball for a year instead of going straight into the NBA draft.
Noel may have gotten hurt in 2013 no matter where he was playing, but at least he would be under contract and well-compensated by whatever NBA team would have drafted him in the first round last June.
Instead, he wound up playing for scholarship money at Kentucky. And while that is nothing to sneeze at, Noel’s presence on campus represents restraint of trade and a bastardization of what college is supposed to be.
He wants to be a pro basketball player. Let him be a pro basketball player without the charade of college delaying it.

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