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Could Nerlens Noel step right in and fill Anthony Davis’ shoes at Kentucky?

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We thought we saw a once-in-a-decade season from Anthony Davis this year with Kentucky, but here’s a scary thought: we could see a performance equally (if not more dominating) next season from Nerlens Noel.

Noel is the much-talked-about 6-10, 215-pound center from Everett, Mass., who is set to make his college decision on April 11, choosing between Syracuse, Georgetown, and Kentucky.

This past season, some went so far as to call him the best shot-blocker not currently wearing an NBA jersey (Davis included) and he seems to be destined to be a one-and-done.

In combination with his long arms and enormous wingspan, Noel has the timing on his blocked shots that is key to success at the college and NBA level. Much like Davis, he runs the floor well and is dangerous in transition and playing above the rim.

With no inside information, Kentucky would seem like a favorable landing spot for Noel, considering coach John Calipari’s ability to present the Anthony Davis case study and sell the idea of a solid one-year career in college and being a ready-made package for the NBA.

Kentucky will presumably have to reload in 2012-13, once the frontcourt of Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, and Terrence Jones do what they are expected to do and leave for the NBA, but Noel would be able to step in and put the Wildcats in position for another Top 10 season.

One of the reasons Kentucky was so successful this past year was their ability and willingness to play defense, which Noel will bring from his first day on campus. That defensive intensity sparked the transition game, where less than a handful of teams could match up with the athletes on that Wildcat roster.

Noel would bring that same kind of defense-to-offense sparkplug, as his ability to block shots would spur Kentucky’s athletic transition game.

We’ll have to see how Calipari’s recruiting class shakes out in the coming weeks, but if he can catch the big fish, Noel, all should follow from there.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

Knee injury sidelines Illinois forward Leron Black

Josh Hart, Leron Black
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Illinois will be shorthanded in its front court for the time being, as during the team’s media day Thursday head coach John Groce announced that sophomore forward Leron Black is out due to injury.

Black will undergo surgery Friday to repair a meniscus tear in his knee, and he’s expected to miss anywhere from four to six weeks. A return after four weeks would have Black back on the court just before the Fighting Illini open their season November 13 against North Florida. Any longer and the Memphis native would wind up missing some game action.

Black averaged 5.0 points and 4.3 rebounds in just under 15 minutes of action per game as a freshman. He’s one of the players expected to contribute in the front court for the Fighting Illini, who lost their best interior defender and second-leading rebounder in Nnanna Egwu at the end of last season (guard Rayvonte Rice, who led the team in rebounding, is also gone).

In addition to Black and junior Maverick Morgan, Illinois adds redshirt freshman Michael Finke and grad student Mike Thorne Jr. (via Charlotte) to their front court rotation.

Coach Hamilton likes mix on Florida State basketball roster

ACC Basketball Tournament: Florida State v North Carolina
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) Florida State is the only team in the Atlantic Coast Conference that returns all five of its starters from last season.

For most teams that would be cause for celebration. For coach Leonard Hamilton it means he is hoping the struggles of the past two seasons have been valuable experience.

The Seminoles had their first practice on Wednesday as they are looking to bounce back from a season in which they went 17-16 and didn’t play in a postseason tournament for the first time in 10 years.

“We have five starters returning from a team that won 17 games. We have guys that have been around, who know their shortcomings and can pass on their wisdom to the younger players,” Hamilton said.

With an experienced roster and a highly regarded recruiting class, Hamilton is hoping to lead the Seminoles back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2012, which is also the year they won the ACC Tournament.

Jarquez Smith, the leading returning scorer from last season, said the open gyms before the start of practice have been extremely competitive as the incoming recruiting class has tried to assert itself early.

“We’ve been going at each other’s neck and it has gotten very competitive,” Smith said. “Everyone is fighting for their position because the guys coming off the bench are just as athletic as who is on the court.”

The newcomers feature Dwayne Bacon (a McDonald’s All-American selection), Terance Mann (the Gatorade Player of the Year in New Hampshire) and Malik Beasley (the Georgia 1A Player of the Year). There’s also Chris Koumadje, who at 7-foot-4 will be the tallest player in school history, and Benji Bell, who helped lead Northwest Florida State to the JUCO National Title.

“This is a very confident and focused group of inexperienced players,” Hamilton said. “They want to make something special happen but aren’t taking anything for granted.”

Two things that Hamilton will look to work on during preseason practices is defense and figuring out his rotation. The Seminoles suffered from a lack of depth last season but this year he could have a roster that goes 10 deep and allows him to go to more of a full-court pressing style of defense.

Xavier Rahan-Mayes led the team in scoring last season, averaging 14.9 points en route to becoming the first freshman in ACC history to score 30 or more points three times. The one thing he said he noticed in preseason practices were that everyone played off each other’s strengths.

Florida State’s first exhibition game is Nov. 2 against Lynn University before opening the season on Nov. 15 against Nicholls State.

“I think we have a pretty good combination of experience and an influx of new players. Any time you have that type of scenario you appreciate it,” Hamilton said. “It looks like we have it moving in the right direction. We’ve had a good offseason and regrouped.”