University of Kentucky freshman All-American Nerlens Noel will enter the NBA draft. It’s an unsurprising move, as Noel was a top recruit and led Kentucky through most of the season before injuring his knee. Even with his knee injury and no NCAA Tournament experience, Noel is projected as the number one overall pick.
Kentucky’s announcement included a statement from Noel:
“I have loved my time at Kentucky, but I feel that I’m ready to take the next step to the NBA,” Noel said. “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!”
Before his season-ending injury, Noel averaged 10.5 points and 9.5 rebounds per game. He led the Southeastern Conference in rebounds and blocked shots. Even with an early exit from the season, Noel finished second in UK single-season history with 106 blocks.
Head coach John Calipari expressed his support of Noel’s decision. From the UK announcement:
“I support Nerlens’ decision to enter his name in the draft and am excited for him and his future,” Calipari said. “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 tore his ACL in February and had knee surgery in mid-March. His timetable for recovery was projected to be between six and eight months.