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By LARRY VAUGHT
Freshman center Nerlens Noel is being counted on to help continue the phenomenal success coach John Calipari has had the last three years at the University of Kentucky.
But success has long been a part of the Noel family since he has two older brothers — Rodman (North Carolina State) and Jim (Boston College) — also playing Division I sports.
“We were just a blessed family. Our mom is a hard working mother,” said Rodman Noel, a sophomore linebacker who has 10 solo tackles, four assists and one interception this season. “She helped teach us to work hard every day and make sure we kept working. I think we all had dreams of going pro in basketball, but me and my older brother took a different route. But I think we all always expected to be successful. That’s the way we were raised.
“He always knew he could compete with us even though we made it hard on him. I think it helped his confidence and motivated him going against us.”
Jim Noel, a senior defensive back with 14 solo stops and four tackles for loss this year, said he originally dreamed of playing basketball at North Carolina.
“But then me and Rodman realized football would be better for us. Both our parents played soccer and had athletic ability, but we got most of our ability I think from our hard work. Our mother always told whatever we were doing, do our best,” Jim Noel said. “And I think for the most part we did that. We know that it is special to have a family full of Division I athletes. We try not to brag about it and not bring attention on us. But we know it is special. I try to talk to both of them every few days and just see how they are doing.”
Rodman was named the seventh-best prep school player in the country by Rivals.com and was nominated for the 2009 Army All-American Bowl. Jim was selected to play in the 31st Annual Shriners Football Classic and helped the AAU Massachusetts Renegades win the state title and super regional championship in basketball in 2007. Jim has played in 37 games with 19 starts.
The football playing brothers never cut Nerlens any slack when they were growing up and playing pickup games against him.
“We were tough on him ever since he was a little kid. We always picked on him to make him tougher,” Rodman Noel said. “Now he doesn’t take any anything from anybody. He toughened up.”
“We are a competitive family. Everybody tries to better everybody else no matter what we are doing whether it’s at the dinner table or basketball court,” Jim said. “I can remember me and Rodman would play him and somebody else and if there was a foul he wanted to call, we told him he had to be tougher. He had to grow up fast because of all that stuff.
“But being hard on him helped him. He really wasn’t able to compete that well with us until he started growing in the seventh grade. Then we had no chance against him. I don’t know if he helped us athletically playing against him, but it helped our family for our mom to see all her sons go to Division I school and not have to pay for it.”
Nerlens also played football early in his athletic career, but his brothers say it was not hard to know where his future was.
“Nerlens was pretty good in football back in Pop Warner. That’s all I’ll say,” Rodman Noel said. “When he got to high school, he knew his football career was over. He played just about every position on the field. He did it all, but it was pretty obvious basketball was his sport.
“Our parents really let us decide on our own about sports. The primary thing with them was school and sports were second. Once you had your school work handled, then everything else fell into place. So that’s how we all got to pick what sports we wanted to play.”