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 Kentucky.com.
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 JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_