Priority No. 1 for Kentucky was securing Nerlens Noel’s commitment. Done.
Priority No. 2 was getting him academically cleared. Also done.
Priority No. 3 is what Kentucky is working through now, trying to make sure Noel’s amateur status is intact and that he’ll be able to play this season for the Wildcats.
As the NCAA expands its investigation into the details of his recruitment, reported last month by Pete Thamel of SI.com, Kentucky coach John Calipari is optimistic about Noel’s chances of suiting up for UK in 2012-13.
“We feel comfortable,” Calipari told USA TODAY Sports. “It’s a review that those kinds of players go through. When you reclassify, you’re going to have reviews. When you reclassify and some people are mad you reclassified, there are going to be some reviews. That’s how it is. We’re comfortable that he’s done everything he was supposed to do.”
Noel is Kentucky’s answer to the departure of National Player of the Year Anthony Davis, another shot-blocking presence on the interior that the Wildcats hope can anchor the defense.
He reclassified from the Class of 2013 to the Class of 2012, announcing his decision to sign with Kentucky in this spring.
Many analysts had him ranked as the best prospect in the 2012 class, alongside UCLA guard Shabazz Muhammad.
Noel is part of a four-man recruiting class for Kentucky, joining Alex Poythress, Willie Cauley, and Archie Goodwin in Lexington.
He chose Calipari’s Wildcats over Syracuse and Georgetown.
Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_
The injury Stephen Zimmerman suffered on Saturday will keep the star UNLV freshman out for at least a week, a source told NBC Sports.
The injury is not thought to be serious, however. Zimmerman may be kept out for longer as a precaution, but that’s a result of the Runnin’ Rebels being in a situation where the rest of their regular season is relatively meaningless.
They’re not getting an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament regardless of how they finish out league play. With back-up center Ben Carter out with a torn ACL, it’s more important to make sure that Zimmerman, who is averaging 10.6 points and 9.1 boards this season, is totally healthy for the Mountain West tournament.
That tournament, mind you, will be played at UNLV’s Thomas & Mack Center.
So the Runnin’ Rebels, regardless of how poor they’ve played this season, will always have a chance to land an automatic bid.
Anyway, the more interesting aspect of this story is how Zimmerman injured the knee. It was a completely avoidable play that came after the whistle, but I’m not sure it was what you would call a “dirty play”. You tell me:
With a little more than three minutes left on Monday night, No. 24 Texas held a 57-51 lead on No. 3 Oklahoma in Norman as Jordan Woodard struggled again and Buddy Hield failed to find the rhythm that he had throughout the first three months of the season.
At that point in the game, Hield was 4-for-14 from the floor with 15 points and four turnovers. He had just missed a pair of wide-open threes
“I couldn’t make a shot,” Hield said after the game. But that changed down the stretch. First, Hield finally got a three to drop. On the next possession, he got all the way to the rim and scored. On the following two possessions, he was fouled on a drive to the rim and hit four free throws. And after missing a pull-up jumper, Hield did this:
“I told coach I wanted the ball,” Hield said, “I saw Lammert coming to bite, so I pulled up.”
“It’s all money.”
Hield is already the favorite to win National Player of the Year, and this performance is only going to help his cause further. Think about it like this: Buddy was not good on Monday night, at least according to his (admittedly lofty) standards. But he still finished with 27 points and shook off a cold shooting night just in time to take over down the stretch.
Now think about this: Hield’s head coach has enough confidence in him to hand him the keys in the final minutes despite the fact that he’s struggling and on a team that has two other players that Lon Kruger trusts on game-winning possessions. Think about it. When Oklahoma beat West Virginia at the buzzer, it was Jordan Woodard that the play was drawn up for. When they beat LSU, it was Isaiah Cousins that got the rock on the final possession while Hield was used as a decoy. .
Want to talk about coaching luxuries?
Kruger has three guards that can shoot, penetrate and score, and penetrate and kick, and one of them is the National Player of the Year that doesn’t mind being used as a decoy.