f Pete Thamel of SI.com is right, there are still major hurdles to be cleared for Nerlens Noel to be declared eligible to play this year at Kentucky even though the highly-touted recruit arrived on campus last weekend and has been seen by numerous fans around Lexington.
Thamel reported Wednesday that the NCAA sent two enforcement officials to Noel's New Hampshire prep school for a three-hour meeting in early August to inquire how Noel paid for his unofficial visits. It was the second time NCAA officials had made a similar trip. However, what made this visit different was that UK compliance officer Sandy Bell was with the NCAA officials.
"I would say it's not common to utilize those resources to just check how recruiting went. It seems there would be more significant information that has to be tested," the source told Thamel even though the source had no direct information about the Noel case.
Kentucky coach John Calipari has said repeatedly that Noel would be fine academically and posted on Twitter when Noel finished his two summer school classes that kept him off campus until last weekend. ESPN.com’s Andy Katz — who always seems to have the inside information on UK basketball — reported that a Kentucky source said it was not abnormal for Bell to be with the NCAA if there are questions on a player and Noel worked out Wednesday and participated in team photo day.
Should UK¿be worried? Earlier this week Les Johns of the Kentucky Kernel, UK's student newspaper, had a one-on-one with UK athletics director Mitch Barnhart and asked him about a recent CBSsports.com poll of anonymous coaches that put Calipari as the "biggest cheater in college basketball" based on their perceptions. Here's how Barnhart answered:
"We know what we are and how we run our program here. Sandy Bell and John have a great relationship and they work very closely together. I have been at this business long enough to know you can’t control what people say and what they do. In my opinion, people are going to say things and be hurtful if they want to be hurtful. If they have an ax to grind, they are going to do their darndest to make sure to find their agenda and get it done. I have never heard Cal out there bad-mouthing other coaches.
"Every coach that has been in Rupp Arena — almost without exception — he has complimented them, said that they have done a great job and has always been gracious about the other guy. I am amazed at the jealousy created when they say stuff about him, and that is what it is — it’s jealousy and people being hurtful wanting to be either where he is or to bring him down. What hurts him and the coaching industry most is that they have these polls. For a coach to even participate in a poll like that, I find almost unbelievably incredible."
Still, the NCAA is checking on Noel just as it did John Wall, Eric Bledsoe and Enes Kanter. Things turned out OK for Wall and Bledsoe, but not so good for Kanter.
Now UK¿fans will just have to wait again to see what happens with the NCAA and Noel.