Next Cats: Shot-blocker Noel alters landscape for 2012 class

Kentucky, Syracuse favorites for center

broberts@herald-leader.comFebruary 2, 2012 

Nerlens Noel

RIVALS

Nerlens Noel shook up the recruiting landscape Wednesday night, announcing that he would join the class of 2012 in order to play college basketball next season.

The 6-foot-10, 215-pound center joins Shabazz Muhammad as Kentucky's top targets for 2012. UK and Syracuse have long been thought to be the two favorites to land Noel.

Currently playing for Tilton School in New Hampshire, Noel is regarded as the best defender in the nation and the best high school shot-blocker since Greg Oden. Many national analysts rate Noel as a better post defender than UK phenom Anthony Davis, who is on pace to break the NCAA record for blocks by a freshman.

Noel is not jumping up a grade but rather joining his original high school class. He started in the class of 2012 before an injury early in his career prompted him to switch to the class of 2013.

ESPN immediately elevated Noel past Muhammad into the No. 1 spot in its 2012 rankings when the reclassification was announced Wednesday night.

The Everett, Mass., native told ESPN that he would visit Syracuse on Feb. 11, and would likely see UK, North Carolina, Georgetown and Florida before making a decision. UConn and Providence are also on his list, but he has already taken unofficial visits to those schools.

Syracuse's loaded frontcourt could be a negative in its recruitment of Noel. The Orange have five-star center Dajuan Coleman signed for the class of 2012, and current starting center Fab Melo is only a sophomore and not projected as a first-round NBA Draft pick.

UK, on the other hand, is unlikely to have a true center on next year's roster.

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