UK Basketball: Nerlens Noel expects to be eligible this season for Wildcats
Kentucky freshman center Nerlens Noel said he knows comparisons to Anthony Davis are inevitable, but he cannot pay attention to any of that and just has to be his own player. (Victoria Graff / October 12, 2012)
I”m not too worried, I”m comfortable (he’ll be cleared),” Noel said Thursday during Kentucky’s media day.
But Noel said he wasn’t sure when his eligibility issue would be resolved.
“I'm not too sure, but it's close to an end, I'm pretty sure," he said. “I”m just focusing on getting better every day.”
The NCAA is looking into unofficial visits Noel took to schools, and who paid for those trips. Noel, who reclassified to the class of 2012 before committing to Kentucky, has been cleared academically after completing summer courses.
Kentucky spokesman Dewayne Peevy said the school will not comment on any eligibility issues until the “first day of competition.”
Coach John Calipari stayed with that line, but believed Noel will be cleared.
“He will practice, and if we played tomorrow, he would play,” Calipari said. “But I'm sticking to that policy. I'm not saying one word. That's the policy. I know some of you are angry right now, but that is the policy.”
And Noel will be able to take part in tonight’s Big Blue Madness. This will be his first experience at the season-opening celebration, and he can’t wait to see what he’s heard so much about.
“I’ve been looking forward to it for a while. I’ve been seeing the fans buzz about it on Twitter. I remember when the countdown was 90 days, and now it’s tomorrow, that’s unreal,” he said. “I’m just looking forward to putting on a show for the fans and it’s just going to be a real special night for the Big Blue Nation.”
Noel said he has a “nice little song” he’s going to be introduced to tonight.
“It’s going to be a fun night. I’ve been looking forward to this for a long time, and we’ll definitely be putting on a show,” he said. “Some of the guys I think have got a couple of (dance) moves.”
But after tonight, the Wildcats get down to business, and Noel’s inside presence is going to be essential for a run at a second straight title and the ninth overall for the school.
The 6-11 Noel comes to Kentucky with a reputation as a shot-blocker, just like Anthony Davis last season. Noel knows the comparisons are inevitable, but doesn’t pay attention to them.
“I definitely feel comfortable because I know I’m my own player with my own game,” he said. “Right off the bat I know I’m going to bring whatever I can bring to the table. And I’m not looking to be anyone that I’m not.
“I dont worry about it, but I understand why people say it. But I know at the at the end of the day, I’m my own player and that’s what I’m going to bring to the table every time out.”
Noel said he’s not going to put any pressure on himself to duplicate what Davis, the national player of the year and No. 1 NBA draft pick, did in his one season at Kentucky. But he knows the fans might.
“I have good self-control like that. I’m just doing my best to stay even-keeled and playing my best for my team,” Noel said. “The fans, that’s a bit different. But at the end of the day. I know who I am. I am a different player, a different person.”
Eight freshmen have come to UK and gone pro after a year under Calipari. Noel said he’s not looking to be the ninth.
“I”m not really worried about that at this stage. I’m mainly just focused on getting my game better and staying on the court,” said.
But isn’t the NBA part of the reason Noel came to Kentucky?
“No, it’s just a regular school,” he said, “where youre going to do regular things and try to get better every day.”
But Kentucky is different, because Final Fours and NCAA titles are expected. But Noel said this year’s squad can’t get caught up in comparisons to past teams, and he said this year’s team doesn’t really talk about last year’s team.
“We don’t discuss it too much because we know who we are as a team,” he said. “As individuals, that’s who we mainly focus on, what we’re going to do this year. We knew what they did last year, but this might be a whole different type of season. We’re just looking forward to doing the best we can and hopefully win another championship.”