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Nerlens Noel impresses ESPN analyst Jay Bilas and Blue Ribbon Basketball editor Chris Dortch

Nerlens Noel slams against Texas A&M. (Clay Jackson photo)

Nerlens Noel slams against Texas A&M. (Clay Jackson photo)

By LARRY VAUGHT

Nerlens Noel was never touted as being the offensive player that Anthony Davis was for Kentucky last year when he swept the national player of the year awards and even won an Olympic gold medal after helping UK win a national championship.

However, Noel is having an extremely productive freshman season for the Wildcats. Noel is averaging 10.8 points, 9.3 rebounds, 3.7 blocks, 2.6 steals and 1.7 assists per game and shooting 57.1 percent from the field. Those numbers have had some like ESPN NBA draft analyst Chad Ford projecting Noel as the top pick in the June draft just as Davis was last year.

“Noel has been very good, especially on the defensive end,” said ESPN analyst Jay Bilas. “He is coming along nicely, and has shown terrific athletic ability and instincts. His productivity has been very good, and he keeps making progress. I think he has been among the best freshmen in the country.

“His activity level and high work rate impress me. Noel plays really hard, and is very active on the defensive end and on the glass. He is averaging close to 10 rebounds per game, he blocks shots and gets steals and deflections. He has the ability to protect the rim, not quite in the same way as Anthony Davis did, but still in a very valuable manner.”

Chris Dortch of Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook thinks Noels has “played as well as can be expected” trying to follow what Davis did last year.

“I think he does a lot of things well and could eventually be a solid offensive player. He would help his cause if he could make more free throws,” Dortch said.

Noel had 15 points, 11 rebounds, a career-high six assists, career-high seven blocks and four steals Saturday in UK’s Southeastern Conference loss to Texas A&M. He’s now had at least six rebounds in every game and has had two or more blocks in eight straight games. He’s also 32-for-44 (72.7 percent) from the field in the last eight games.

How much could Noel improve offensively by March? Last year Davis expanded his offensive game dramatically in February and March.

“Noel is not polished as an offensive player, and doesn’t yet have reliable post moves to where he can get and hold position on the low block, be thrown the ball and make the right move to score, get fouled or both,” Bilas said. “Right now, he is playing off of penetration, offensive stickbacks and only occasionally gets the ball in a position to do something with it.

“I like how he has a positive assist-turnover ratio, too. There aren’t many big men that have more assists than turnovers. I do think he will continue to get better, and his game will continue to improve. However, I would not expect him to be (Akeem) Olajuwon by March. That wouldn’t be fair to him. Noel is a very good young player that is getting better and better, but he still needs to be allowed to develop at his own pace.”

Can he  carry a team in March in postseason play?

“Not in the way that question usually means it, no. I don’t see Noel as a Carmelo Anthony-type or Danny Manning-type player. He is a valuable piece of a greater whole,” Bilas said. “For Kentucky to have great success in March and advance to the second weekend (of the NCAA Tournament), the point guard position has to be solidified.

“No team wins without good interior play, but no team wins without steady guard play, either. The best teams, championship teams, have both.”

Dortch says Noel simply has to keep making “daily improvement” like he has been doing until March.

“It’s nothing more complex than that. Daily improvement seems to be the norm at Kentucky under John Calipari. His players seem to peak as the season progresses and I would expect the same from him,” Dortch said.

Calipari could see Noel emerging as UK’s team leader based on the way he’s played in games providing he makes one change.

“Got to practice that way.  Can’t just do it in games.  Have to practice every day and have everybody know that you’re preparing yourself to be great. And as he does that, yeah, he could be one of those guys (to lead the team),” Calipari said.

Both Bilas and Dortch can see Noel potentially be the No. 1 pick in the draft.

“First, he has a lot to offer as a prospect, especially on the defensive end. He does not yet have the body for the NBA, but he has tools, and he plays really hard, which not all young big men do,” Bilas said. “Second, the draft is unusually weak this year. One has to ask, if not Noel, then whom? Clearly, this is not 2003 when LeBron, Carmelo, Bosh and Wade were among the first five selections.”

“He’s in the mix. Shabazz Muhammad of UCLA has started to play at a high level and will be under consideration, too,” Dortch said.

Permanent link to this article: http://vaughtsviews.com/nerlens-noel-impresses-espn-analyst-jay-bilas-and-blue-ribbon-basketball-editor-chris-dortch/

18 comments

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  1. Larry T Clemons

    Nerlens Noel, Ryan Harrow and Archie Goodwin are coming along FINE ! We just need Leadership on the Court, to guide them and the others…

  2. Lori Metcalf

    I love how Nerlens is always trying to knock the ball out of the opponents’ hands. He is a dynamic, exciting player and I’m so glad he chose to come to UK. I wish he had the personality to step up and be the leader of this team. I think other Cats could do much worse than to follow the example being set by Nerlens. At least from what we can see on the court. We can’t judge how he is in practice and off the court, of course.

  3. David

    My take on the games are as follows.
    1) Willie Cauley Stein needs to defend the 3, he stands too far away from the shooter and I have watched two games where the opposing team shoots right over him, my God he is 7 feet tall that should not happen but it will when there is too much cushion between him and opposing player.
    2) I think Archie is good but he tries to do it all, many times I have watched him drive to the basket, drawing 3 men to collapse on him leaving a Kentucky player wide open on the side for a three but he refuses to kick it out and instead will through up a circus shot.
    3) If we are going to be in tight games we better learn to make free throws or people it’s going to be along year.

    Seen some good in these guys but to succeed IMO, less selfish play, guard your man like in his face, and learn to make your free throws and we will be fine.

    1. Larry T Clemons

      Like all three, but you missed one…4) ” Aggressive Box Out ” shift power to hips and legs…We need better rebounding.

      1. David

        I agree Larry T and Go Cats!

    2. David

      I wrote above “instead will through up circus shot”, should have been throw up circus shot. Sorry! my bad

  4. Jim Boyers

    Nerlens is, hands down, the most energetic, solid player on this team. If the others (Ryan is close) played with half his enthusiasm, this team would be something special.

    And to follow up on what David said, how many possessions has Archie blown by being selfish and, let’s face it, flat-out ridiculous with the ball. PAAAAASSSSS IT!!!

    1. Larry T Clemons

      In Archie’s defense, this Drive at all cost mentality, usually happens late in the second half, where he feels the Team needs a spark from “Someone “, so he put the pressure on Himself, Some games, it worked. It’s a shame he carries that Burden, but you have to applaud his effort…I’ll take that all day from all of Our First 7, wouldn’t you. My thoughts are, when Archie Dribble Drives, the rest should Crash the boards and Box Out, Rebounding should be Our Strength !

      1. Jim Boyers

        The rebounding (or, more correctly, the total lack thereof) is perhaps the biggest disappointment of all. It is amazing that such a tall, athletic team can’t seem to get to the ball or hold onto it when they do.

        1. Larry T Clemons

          Sure would compensate for some of Archie’s misses…but, do you agree with my assessment of ” Why He Does It “,,,?

          1. Jim Boyers

            I do agree that he seems to be trying to carry the team a lot of the time. BUT, there are times when it is really hard to tell. Sometimes he does it when things are going well, as if he justs wants to “get his”.

      2. David

        Larry T, I understand your thoughts but Archie has got to see or start seeing that open man on the wing. If he does and dishes it off he will get some assists. I figure we have to get Wiltjer some shots or Mayes or Harrow since he has been shooting pretty well, it will open up the lane for Goodwin in the long run, because the teams will not be able to collapse down on him if their worried about the open 3. He needs to start attacking like a QB with the option, hand off or keep it. But I think for now he just runs a lot of QB keepers. Take care my friend and go CATS

    2. King Ghidora

      Archie seems to not make good decisions at times but I believe that Cal has told him to drive the ball whenever possible. He has hopes the big men will clean up and misses. That is the heart of the dribble drive offense after all. As long as Archie is driving the ball there will be short rebounds that are tailor made for putbacks. Outside shots result in long rebounds which aren’t so great for putbacks. Goodwin isn’t the first of Cal’s players to make out of control drives. He may be the one who gets most out of control by Wall and Knight both drove the ball and shot it recklessly at times. And Jones was asked to shoot more often from down on the blocks. It has been traditional basketball to push the ball inside and let the rebounders fix the problems. Louisville won a national title playing exactly that way with Scooter and Rodney McCray cleaning up what shots were missed by Darrel Griffith who was a slasher type scorer himself. That isn’t the only example of a team that played that style and made it work. It’s just one that many UK fans might remember. Put the Houston Cougars team with Phi Slamma Jamma in the same category. It was just after the advancement of high flying basketball by Dr. J after all. Players all over emulated his style and Goodwin is just another in a long line of players that have tried to follow in the footsteps of the Doctor (J not Dunkenstein). The one time I got to see Erving play live he must have missed 20 shots in the game but he kept shooting and he got his points. There’s more than just scoring that happens when you drive like that. You make defenses sag to stop you and you create put back opportunities. Cal knows what he’s doing. Goodwin will become a great player IMO. He’s just a little slower at learning the sport than what we’ve been used to seeing under Cal but he has set the mark so high it would be foolish to expect it every year.

      1. King Ghidora

        Arrggh! I should proof read before posting. It should be “clean up ‘any’ misses” and it should be “most out of control ‘but’ Wall and Knight”. There may be other mistakes. Just use your imagination. :)

  5. King Ghidora

    Bilas now is blasting Noel as one of the 5 most overrated players in America. I guess he missed the Louisville game. Of all the reasons UK is losing too many games, Noel is not one of them. Without Noel the Cats would have lost more no doubt.

    1. King Ghidora

      Here’s the link to where the report where Bilas claims Noel is overrated.

      http://johnclay.bloginky.com/2013/01/14/jay-bilas-nerlens-noel-one-of-five-most-overrated/

      Yes it comes from a less than reputable source (IMO).

  6. LindaS

    King, I saw that too. When I first saw this headline and then the comments about Nerlens, I thought I had imagined what Flukie Dukie Bilas said. Then you pointed out he did say he is overrated. I wish the heck these idiot common tators…yes that is what I said, would quit speaking with forked tongues.
    I am so glad this site is here, thank you Larry V. I am so tired of the hominy and grits on the internet. (hate on the team, trying to be polite, oh heck, it is all bs on the internet lately about our team.)
    At least there is no hate here. However, there was some hate a few months ago about another program, don’t y’all go and do anything like that here no matter what happens because I am keeping my Louavull Slugger handy and the evil twin will come after you, she will seek and find and you will be sorry.

  7. zo

    Time will tell,but I still believe.

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