Nerlens Noel

SEC Basketball Tournament - Quarterfinals - Vanderbilt v Kentucky

Questions still need answering, but Kentucky takes a step in the right direction in win over UNC-Asheville

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Kentucky isn’t there yet. They looked sloppy and careless at times and are still learning how to play with each other, but it was evident in the Wildcats’ 89-57 victory over UNC-Asheville that John Calipari has a special group on his hands.

Kentucky didn’t need to beat the Bulldogs by 32 points in order for the nation to recognize that the Harrison twins, Julius Randle, and the other future NBA players on the squad are a special group but, if nothing else, tonight reaffirmed that notion.

Recall last year’s Kentucky team that had a bevy of talent and future pro players on the roster. Expectations were high in the preseason, perhaps unreasonably so, and the Wildcats fluttered throughout the year thanks to inconsistent play at point guard and Nerlens Noel suffering a torn ACL midway through the season. That team never seemed to click, and while it’s still extremely early for the current team, the chemistry seems to be there.

Yes, the sloppy play for much of the first half that saw Kentucky head to the locker room with an unimpressive 41-31 lead needs correcting. Yes, missing 18 free throws is a legitimate concern. And yes, whether freshman point guard Andrew Harrison will be able to shoulder the load of leading this team or not is in question.

However, what we saw tonight was a team that seemingly enjoys playing with each other and has fun. It sounds juvenile for a team to “have fun” out on the floor, but far too often last season that appeared to be an issue.

The star of the night was freshman Julius Randle, who poured in 23 points and corralled 15 rebounds. There is no doubt he will be a menace in the paint throughout the season, but what was so encouraging about Randle’s night was drilling 11-13 from the line. He’s going to receive double and triple teams and he is going to be sent to the line a fair amount, especially with the new defensive rules. If he can hit 75% of his free throws or better, he becomes that much more of a threat.

Conversely, there has to be a cause for concern that the rest of the Wildcats combined to shoot 19-35. Free throw shooting has bit John Calipari’s teams in the past — remember some of his teams at Memphis — and that’s an area needing work.

One can only learn so much after blowing UNC-Asheville out at home. Kentucky’s game against a talented Michigan State team next Tuesday will be a good barometer of just how far along the Wildcats are — how the youthful talent on Kentucky maintains their composure against a veteran Spartan team will be telling.

One of the primary questions of this team over the summer months was if Cal could get these future NBA players to all buy-in. Tonight was a step in that direction.

Cornell’s First Team All-Ivy forward Shonn Miller sidelined with shoulder injury
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Shonn Miller missed the final four games of the 2012-13 season with a shoulder injury. Despite having the summer months to get healthy, the same shoulder continues to nag Miller, and there’s a strong chance he will miss the entire 2013-14 season.

From Cornell’s preseason prospectus which was released last week: “…[R]eturning first-team All-Ivy League forward Shonn Miller continues to recover from an injury that has left him sidelined throughout the preseason.”

Miller is a menace on both ends of the floor and a real stat-stuffer. In fact, Miller accomplished something that only one other player in college basketball did last season:

It’s easy to see what a game-changing type of player Miller is and how important he is to the success of Cornell; he was named to the First Team All-Ivy in 2012-13 and the Rookie of the Year in 2011-12. In fact, the Big Red lost the final four games of last season with Miller watching from the sidelines.

Given the recurring injury and the fact he has missed practices, it is almost a certainty that Miller will miss the non-conference portion of Cornell’s schedule. Based upon reports from the Cornell Basketball Blog, there’s a strong chance Miller will miss the entire season:

Embarking on his fourth season at Cornell, Bill Courtney has yet to finish above .500, and if he was to have any shot at eclipsing that mark, Miller needed to be healthy for season. However, Courtney is bringing in some highly touted recruits, and should have a team that will be in line to contend for the Ivy League title in 2015-16, especially if Miller elects to redshirt and return for two more seasons.

Hypothetically speaking, if Cornell looked like a true contender in the Ivy Legaue this season, perhaps Miller would try and return once league play begins. Yet, with the next two seasons shaping up as good ones for Cornell, it wouldn’t be a surprise if Miller redshirts for 2013-14 and has two years left of eligibility remaining.

While losing Miller is devastating for the coming season, it actually may work to Cornell’s advantage in subsequent seasons.

Invitations extended to the NBA Draft’s “Green Room”
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As reported by ESPN’s Chad Ford, the NBA has extended invitations to the “green room” for draft night this coming Thursday, June 27th. This room is designated for players who are projected to be selected in the top half of the first round — “the lottery.”

Those invited are Nerlens Noel (Kentucky); Victor Oladipo (Indiana); Otto Porter (Georgetown); Alex Len (Maryland); Anthony Bennett (UNLV); Ben McLemore (Kansas); Trey Burke (Michigan); Michael-Carter Williams (Syracuse); C.J McCollum (Lehigh) and Cody Zeller (Indiana).

If there is one name on the preceding list that isn’t like the others, it’s Lehigh’s C.J. McCollum, who is the only player from a mid-major league that has been invited to the green room. Make no mistake, McCollum has proven he belongs in this group, but it isn’t often that a player from the Patriot League reaches the NBA. In fact, in the history of the league, there has only been one other player make his mark in the NBA and that was Colgate’s Adonal Foyle.

This year, McCollum and Bucknell’s Mike Muscala will be drafted. For extended draft reading on McCollum, NBC Sports’ Raphielle Johnson spoke with him and his coach, Dr. Brett Reed.

According to Ford, “In the past, the NBA has expanded the list of green room invites as the draft date nears. Typically, the NBA has invited 13-to-15 players. This year, the league has told a number of agents it may add a few names to the list as the draft approaches.”

Other names that may receive an invitation to the green room are Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (Georgia), Steven Adams (Pittsburgh), Shabazz Muhammad (UCLA), Sergey Karasev (Russia), Kelly Olynyk (Gonzaga), and Giannis Antetokounmpo (Greence).

You can find Kevin on twitter @KLDoyle11

Last-minute father’s day gift? How about a call from a title-winner?

Rick Pitino, Quentin Ghelardini
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Father’s day is one of the most legendary goof-off holidays in human history. Does dad want a tie? No, but he’s getting one anyway. And the old man is so cool, he’ll smile fondly anyway.


Unless dad happens to be a big college hoops fan, in which case you can throw a surprise curveball at him tomorrow. is offering up dad-to-dad phoners from John Calipari, Bill Self and even reigning national champion coach Rick Pitino.

If your pops isn’t so enamored of swapping stories with other old dudes, maybe he’ll enjoy the fact that one of his favorite players from last season is now out from under the NCAA thumb and able to make money off of his dialing skills:

I can personally vouch for the fact that Rick Pitino is a very understanding guy when it comes to fatherly duties. A few years back, I called to set up an interview with him over the summer, and his assistant took my number. And let me tell you, big time coaches NEVER call you back.

Except this one did. He called around 8pm, while I was sitting on the couch watching Pixar movies with my son. In other words, I was completely unready to conduct an interview. I stammered and stuttered for a few minutes as I tried to find my computer and recorder, and finally just admitted to him that I had been watching movies with my son and would take a second to get ready. I thought he’d be pretty annoyed, since he’d taken the time to call me back.

But he just said, somewhat wistfully, that he remembered those days, even though his kids are older now. I guess you don’t get too much time to sit and watch Toy Story 2 when your son is your assistant coach (as Richard Pitino was at that time), let alone head coach at Minnesota (as he is now).

Anyway, happy father’s day, dads, from all of us here at CBT.

Eric Angevine is the editor of Storming the Floor. He tweets @stfhoops.

Can Nerlens Noel still be the No. 1 pick in the 2013 NBA Draft? (VIDEO)

Nerlens Noel
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Kurt Helin of ProBasketballTalk takes an early look at the 2013 NBA Draft, including whether Kentucky freshman Nerlens Noel has a chance to be selected No. 1 overall despite tearing his ACL earlier this season:

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

VIDEO: Kentucky’s Nerlens Noel injures knee vs. Florida

Nerlens Noel

The nation’s leading shot blocker, Kentucky freshman Nerlens Noel, left Tuesday’s 69-52 loss to No. 7 Florida with what appeared to be a knee injury and had to be carried to the locker room by teammates and team personnel.

With 8:03 to play in the second half and his team trailing by 12 points, 57-45, Noel chased down Florida senior Mike Rosario in transition and blocked his shot. As he came down, he appeared to land awkwardly and went down in pain while grabbing his left knee.

Television cameras picked up audio of Noel yelling in pain as he clutched the knee and he remained on the ground in pain for a time while team doctors evaluated him. Guards Archie Goodwin and Julius Mays helped Noel to the tunnel as he was surrounded by teammates. Noel was unable to put weight on the knee.

(WARNING: This video isn’t the easiest to watch if you hate hearing kids screaming in pain):

Here’s a picture of the injury from

Prior to the injury against Florida, Noel had tallied eight points, six rebounds, and three blocks. If tests ultimately show that Noel will be forced out of the Kentucky lineup with this injury, it would change the overall complexion of the Wildcats’ defense. His ability to block and alter shots has been central to Kentucky’s resurgence in SEC play.

Noel leads the country with 4.7 blocks per game and is projected to be a Top 3 pick in the 2013 NBA Draft.

At the press conference after the game, Coach Cal said that he didn’t see the injury, but heard it was bad, according to his website’s twitter feed. “I’m physically sick right now for him,” Cal said. “What I’m hoping for is it’s not the extreme.” Noel’s been taken to the hospital to have tests done, and Cal said he hopes Noel will go home with the team tonight.

Patric Young had an even grimmer outlook. “His leg was wobbly,” he told Jason Lieser, the Florida beat writer for the Palm Beach Post, “knee looked dislocated. It was gruesome. I don’t want to think about it.”

More updates will be added as they become available.

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