The Washington Times-Herald

February 14, 2013

One-and-done not to blame for Noel

Glade's Games

By Dennis Glade
Washington Times Herald

WASHINGTON — I hate the NBA's one-and-done rule, but it's not to blame for University of Kentucky freshman standout Nerlens Noel's current predicament.

Noel was thought to be the front runner for the No. 1 overall pick in June's NBA Draft, before he suffered a ghastly knee injury Tuesday evening.

During No. 25 Kentucky's 69-52 loss at No. 7 Florida, Noel tore the ACL in his left knee doing what he does best, attempting to block a shot.

In 24 games this season, Noel averaged 10.5 points, 9.5 rebounds and 4.4 blocks per game.

Immediately following the injury, college basketball analysts rushed to the judgment that the NBA's controversial one-and-done rule was obviously to blame.

Injuries happen in all sports, in case you didn¹t realize that.

In 2005, after seeing numerous high schoolers unsuccessfully jump straight from high school to the NBA, commissioner David Stern put a 19-year-old age limit on the draft. High school seniors can choose to go to college like Noel did, or play overseas like Brandon Jennings did in 2008. It's a very dumb rule, but that's a debate for another day.

A decade ago, an ACL tear was a near death sentence, but today, with the advances in modern medicine, Noel has a good chance to return to the court in eight months. Oddly, most of the consternation surrounding the Noel injury isn't if he can return to play at a high level, but how many millions he may have lost by having to play at Kentucky for one year.

ESPN NBA Draft analyst Chad Ford currently has Noel No. 3 on his big board, down two spots after the injury. Scouts have seen Noel in high school, and now for 24 games with Kentucky. There was no guarantee he would finish out the season, and secure the No. 1 pick with more than a month to go before the National Champion is crowned.

Kentucky, even with Noel was expected to go no further than the Sweet 16, and that's being generous. Ben McLemore (Kansas) and Shabazz Muhammad (UCLA) will be competing for that No. 1 slot, and will advance deeper in the NCAA Tournament than the Wildcats. Noel was the front runner at this time, but hardly the prohibitive favorite that Anthony Davis was last year for Kentucky.

Coming out of high school, Noel was the second rated player in the country, behind Muhammad, so he wasn't even the best high schooler last season.

Noel wouldn't have been the No. 1 pick last June. If he declares for the draft he will be a top five pick, exactly where he would have been last year if not for the one-and-done rule.

The NBA Draft unlike any other professional draft is based more on potential than on current ability. Noel is one of the best defensive players to come through the draft in years, maybe even better than Davis last year.

By that standard he will be completely fine if he chooses to enter the draft.

The rehab for his knee surgery will be six-eight months, which would put him back on the court at the latest in  late October, just in time for the

2013-14 NBA season. If Noel chooses to stay in school, and take another shot at winning John Calipari his second National Championship I wouldn¹t fault him, but that decision would make this entire conversation moot.

The knee injury is a horrible, unfortunate circumstance to happen to such a talented young man.

Lets not kid ourselves into thinking he's missing out on his life's fortune.