Noel picks UK

Published 2:54 am Thursday, April 12, 2012

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — Top prospect Nerlens Noel announced he’s joining Kentucky, bolstering the Wildcats’ hopes of defending their recent national championship and finishing with a fourth consecutive No. 1 recruiting class.

The 6-foot-10 center from the Tilton School in New Hampshire selected the Wildcats over Syracuse and Georgetown on Wednesday night.

“I’ll be taking my talents for college to play at the University of …” Noel said on ESPNU before turning around in his chair to show off the “UK” shaved in the back of his signature flat top hairstyle.

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The Wildcats won their eighth title in school history just over a week ago. Kentucky freshmen Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Marquis Teague and sophomores Doron Lamb and Terrence Jones have until April 29 to decide whether to enter the NBA draft.

But Kentucky coach John Calipari’s development of Davis into the nation’s best shot blocker with 186 swats clearly appeared to sway Noel, who is considered an even better defender than Davis was coming out of high school.

“I just thought it was the best fit for me personally,” Noel said. “I talked to my mom, she liked it as well, she liked all three of the schools, but when it came down to it, she liked Kentucky. She met (Assistant) Coach Orlando (Antigua) and Coach Calipari and they just had a great idea, just watching on TV what they do with Anthony Davis. I mean, she thought it was the best fit for me and I did, too. So, we went with that.”

Noel said he could’ve played for any of the schools that were among his finalists.

“I thought I could play good at any three of these styles,” he said.

Earlier in the broadcast, Calipari repeated what he’s said often during Kentucky’s title run that the school isn’t for everyone because every opponent views games against the Wildcats as a “Super Bowl” and that he hoped that the five underclassmen along with departing senior Darius Miller would all be picked in the first round of June’s draft.

“We don’t know if all five underclassmen are going to leave, but you know, if you’re a betting man, you’re probably saying it looks like if they all have an opportunity to be first round picks, they probably will,” the coach said.

Calipari had already landed three highly regarded talents in the fall in guard Archie Goodwin, small forward Alex Poythress and 7-footer Willie Cauley. If all five underclassmen leave, sophomores Ryan Harrow and Kyle Wiltjer likely will join the starting rotation with Noel anchoring the middle.

“We’ve got Kyle Wiltjer coming back, we’ve got Ryan Harrow who sat out last year coming back, we’ve got some other guys in the program, obviously Archie, Willie and Alex are terrific players,” Calipari said. “We have the makings of another really good team.”