The dust has settled and now Nerlens Noel (Everett, Mass./Tilton School) is the newest member of the Class of 2012. Actually, it’s his second time in the class, but this time it’s for good. He’ll be in college next fall. Regardless, there’s plenty to discuss.
We’ll begin with Noel’s ranking. The latest ESPNU 100 had Shabazz Muhammad (Las Vegas/Bishop Gorman) at No. 1 and it’s a spot he earned but it’s also one he’s about to forfeit. Noel is the game’s premier defensive player, along the lines of a Greg Oden or Anthony Davis. Offensively, he’s raw but making strides quickly. For anyone who saw him at last month’s HoopHall Classic, there could be little resistance to the change at the top. Muhammad did nothing to lose his spot. The significant difference -- aside from comparing a wing to a center -- is defense. Noel is the most dominant defensive player in high school and his presence changes the complexion of games.
Noel is going to go through what I’ll call “drive-thru recruiting.” It’s going to be quick and efficient. While the decision itself might take a few months, don’t expect a circus to ensue. He is a humble, quiet kid who will take visits and make his decision. He’s not a limelight seeker though the spotlight is cast directly on he and Muhammad from now until the time they decide.
I see his early list of schools in tiers. From a multitude of data I’ve gathered, in my mind the picture looks like this.
Tier one: Syracuse (Feb. 11 visit), Kentucky
Tier two: North Carolina
Tier three: Florida, Connecticut
Tier four: Providence, Georgetown
How good is the kid and how big will he be for one lucky program? Well, the HoopHall Classic had 20 ESPNU 100 kids and the three best juniors. Here's one NBA scout's take: "He certainly was the best kid I saw at HoopHall. Should be an interesting couple of weeks for those schools."
Something to think about: if you’re one of the schools on the aforementioned list and you were caught off guard by Noel’s decision to switch classes, you probably aren’t getting him, barring a miracle. In my opinion, a move like this had to have been in the back of his mind for quite some time. It would only be natural that he’s had discussions with some schools regarding the move. The ones that knew in advance, are the ones to watch for.
While all this hoopla is going on, postseason all-star and showcase games will likely be calling him. The big enchilada is the McDonald’s All-American Game, which will be announced next week on ESPNU. Behind the scenes, the ballots have been cast and this team is on lock down. I don’t see McDonald’s adding a player.
The Jordan Brand Classic was announced on Thursday and in my opinion, Noel eventually finds his way into this game. He played in all the Nike events and for BABC, a signature Nike team. Mix in the fact that he’s a stud prospect and my best guess is that Noel plays in the game.
That leaves the Hoop Summit. Since that team has yet to be named, it has the least issues in terms of adding Noel. Let me see: 6-foot-10 shot-blocker who runs the floor and finishes plus has a history of winning on his side? Yeah, he’s going to be in that game too.
Once the shock of changing classes, moving up in the rankings and with naming colleges wears off, things will settle down. I guarantee today and the next few are going to be hectic for Noel. Regardless, the first big decision has been made and teams and games are now reacting to the news.