Nerlens Noel was just doing what he does—hustling and going all out as usual.
Noel, the leading shot-blocker in the nation, had just chased down Florida's Mike Rosario and swatted his would-be layup attempt to keep Kentucky's deficit at 12.
That would be the last play he would make this season.
The proverbial injury bug is a tricky thing. At times, teams go for extended periods of time seemingly unscathed.
Other times, teams can barely get one player's injury diagnosed before another player is in serious pain.
Kentucky had been fairly fortunate over the past two seasons in this regard. Big Blue Nation has had to hold its collective breath at times, though.
Think back to last year's Elite Eight: Anthony Davis went down with an apparent knee injury.
UK fans braced for the worst, but he was able to get up and return to the game. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist also had several spills where he seemed to be hurt really bad but was able to pick himself up off of the hardwood and continue to play.
Noel had taken some lumps this year as well, but he has always been able to bounce back and play on. In each of the above cases, Wildcats fans were able to exhale as major injury was averted.
That wasn't the case in Gainesville as Noel went down and stayed down. It was a devastating injury for a wonderful young man.
As most everyone knows by now, it is official: His ACL is torn, and he will be out for the season. His health and a smooth recovery are the foremost priorities now.
Nerlens Noel has been diagnosed with a torn ACL. He is out for the season.— Kentucky Athletics(@UKAthleticsNews) February 13, 2013
This is even uncharted waters for John Calipari.
I’ve been coaching for 22 years and this is the first injury we’ve had of this kind during the season, which makes it even more devastating.— John Calipari (@UKCoachCalipari) February 13, 2013
He's only hours removed from one of the most difficult experiences in his young life. However, it seems as if Nerlens knows what lies ahead and is ready to attack it with all he has.
Minor setback for a MAJOR comeback!I love you all and can't thank y'all enough for the prayers.— Nerlens Noel (@NerlensNoel3) February 13, 2013
If he rehabs half as hard as he plays, he will be just fine.
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