Kentucky Star Nerlens Noel Declares for 2013 NBA Draft

Alex KayCorrespondent IApril 15, 2013

Freshman All-American Nerlens Noel is foregoing his sophomore season at Kentucky to enter the 2013 NBA draft. According to UK’s official site, the big man had this to say about his decision:

I have loved my time at Kentucky, but I feel that I'm ready to take the next step to the NBA. I've learned so much here at UK and am thankful for Coach (John) Calipari, the staff and my teammates for all of their support. I especially appreciate the Big Blue Nation and all of the support, prayers and well-wishes I've received from them during my rehab and decision-making process. I'll always be a Wildcat!

The Wildcats' star is one of the highest-rated prospects in his class and is projected by all major publications to be a top-five pick in June. Standing at 6’10”, 230 pounds, Noel has the length, athleticism, defensive mindset, shot-blocking capabilities and motor to succeed in the Association. 

Unfortunately, the Massachusetts native had his freshman campaign cut short by a torn ACL in mid-February.

The injury is going to have an impact on how teams view him prior to the draft, but there’s no reason to believe he won’t be considered for the No. 1 overall pick, assuming he remains on schedule to make a full recovery. 

Prior to going down with the knee injury, Noel was averaging 10.5 points, 9.5 rebounds, 2.1 steals and 1.6 assists per game. Most impressively, the center was leading the nation with an eye-popping 4.4 blocks per contest.

Noel was able to impact the floor on the defensive end in much the same way Anthony Davis did the year prior. While Noel doesn’t grade out as highly as Davis—the No. 1 overall pick in the 2012 draft—he does have similar upside and brings the same type of game-changing defense to the table. 

Coach John Calipari fully supports Noel’s decision, telling UK Athletics:

I support Nerlens' decision to enter his name in the draft and am excited for him and his future. The hard work and will to win he showed on the floor this year and the dedication and attitude he has shown in his rehab will only be a reward for him and whatever team drafts him in June.

Noel still has to work hard to get healthy and into game shape, but considering the abilities he flashed before getting hurt, a No. 1 overall selection is certainly in play.