If there’s one thing we ought to credit Nerlens Noel with at this, the earliest point of his Kentucky career, it’s that he knows what he is walking into with the Wildcats.
He’ll be the centerpiece of Volume IV of John Calipari’s experiment in youth, and, along with that, he recognizes the types of questions that will be floated around all season.
The most prominent of those? The length of his college career.
“I definitely won’t go in there thinking about one-and-done,” Noel told the Charlotte Observer. “The only thing I need to do is go in there and think about getting better and doing what I have to do for my team to win games and get to a national championship.”
Noel will have to deflect as many questions like that as he will have to block shots next season for the Wildcats, and the fact that he seems to know how to handle them is promising for the focus and chemistry that Kentucky will want to build in a run to repeat as national champions.
Call it the cynic in me, but it is almost a foregone conclusion that, even before Noel dons the Kentucky blue for the first time, he will be set on heading to the NBA after one season.
But the fact that he understands the way Calipari builds his teams, especially this 2011-12 Wildcats squad, seems to shatter the so-called “me culture” of high-major athletes.
Five Kentucky underclassmen are headed to the 2012 NBA draft, but that national championship team played differently than some rag-tag collection of some of the most talented young players in the country.
It was about “buying in” and playing defense, though of course, it didn’t hurt that they were supremely talented.
It appears Noel is moving in the direction to continue to build on that kind of foundation. Though a small sample size, it looks promising, but we’ll just have to wait and see.