Recruiting: Nerlens Noel and Shabazz Muhammad to announce decisions Wednesday night

broberts@herald-leader.comApril 11, 2012 

  • National Signing Day Special

    When: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday

    TV: ESPNU

    Online: Follow Ben Roberts on Twitter @NextCats.

  • 2012 signees

    Willie Cauley-Stein

    6-10, 215, forward/center

    Olathe, Kan.

    Rivals: 39

    Scout: 30

    ESPN: 40

    MaxPreps: 34

    Notes: Not projected to be an immediate starter, but could see extended minutes off the bench as a freshman. He's not a typical post player and is comfortable playing away from the basket.


    Archie Goodwin

    6-5, 180, guard

    Little Rock, Ark.

    Rivals: 12

    Scout: 17

    ESPN: 15

    MaxPreps: 7

    Notes: A lightning-fast guard who picked Kentucky over home-state Arkansas. He'll be expected to come in right away and be one of UK's biggest scoring threats next season.


    Alex Poythress

    6-7, 215, forward

    Clarksville, Tenn.

    Rivals: 19

    Scout: 15

    ESPN: 13

    MaxPreps: 12

    Notes: A versatile forward who could start from day one in Lexington. Rivals.com senior analyst Jerry Meyer once described him as a "more explosive" Terrence Jones.


    2012-13 Transfer

    Ryan Harrow

    6-1, 160, point guard

    Marietta, Ga.

    2010 rankings

    Rivals: 19

    Scout: 25

    ESPN: 39

    MaxPreps: 23

    Notes: Essentially a third-year player after one season at N.C. State and one season of practice under Calipari. He could be one of the country's top point guards as a sophomore.


    2012 recruiting targets

    Anthony Bennett

    6-8, 230, power forward

    Brampton, Canada

    Rivals: 7

    Scout: 7

    ESPN: 7

    MaxPreps: 11

    Notes: A big-bodied post player who can also handle the ball and shoot from outside. His recruitment has been one of the biggest mysteries in the class of 2012.


    Amile Jefferson

    6-7, 185, small forward

    Philadelphia

    Rivals: 36

    Scout: 22

    ESPN: 25

    MaxPreps: 16

    Another versatile forward who would fit nicely in Calipari's dribble-drive offense. He's a hard worker on the court, and an excellent rebounder and shot blocker.


    Shabazz Muhammad

    6-6, 215, guard/forward

    Las Vegas

    Rivals: 1

    Scout: 2

    ESPN: 2

    MaxPreps: 2

    Notes: UK's biggest recruiting target for most of the last year. He's the best scorer in his class and brings an intensity similar to that of UK freshman Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.


    Nerlens Noel

    6-10, 215, center

    Everett, Mass.

    Rivals: NR

    Scout: 1

    ESPN: 1

    MaxPreps: 1

    The consensus pick as the No. 1 player in the class of 2012. Noel would step right into Anthony Davis' role as the Cats' defensive stopper in the paint.


    Alex Oriakhi

    6-9, 240, forward/center

    Lowell, Mass.

    Averaged 6.8 points and 4.8 rebounds for UConn last season

    Notes: Played a key role during UConn's run to the national title last year. He would give the Cats a veteran presence and more size in the post, both of which will be needed.


    2013 commitment

    Derek Willis

    6-9, 195, power forward

    Mt. Washington, Ky.

    Rivals: 23

    Scout: 30

    ESPN: 35

    MaxPreps: 30

    Notes: UK's lone commitment for the class of 2013. He could become the first future Wildcat from Kentucky to play in the McDonald's All-American Game since Rajon Rondo.


    2013 recruiting targets

    Aaron Harrison

    Shooting guard

    6-5, 205

    Houston

    Rivals: 7

    Scout: 6

    ESPN: 6

    MaxPreps: 5

    Notes: One half of perhaps the best backcourt in high school basketball. The twins are considering UK, Maryland, Villanova and Baylor, and the Cats are perceived to be the favorites.


    Andrew Harrison

    6-5, 210, point guard

    Houston

    Rivals: 1

    Scout: 4

    ESPN: 5

    MaxPreps: 3

    Notes: The higher ranked of the two brothers and the No. 1 point guard in the class of 2013. The Harrisons could start as freshmen for whatever school they choose.


    Jabari Parker

    6-8, 220, Small forward

    Chicago

    Rivals: 2

    Scout: 1

    ESPN: 1

    MaxPreps: 1

    Notes: Some consider him the best player in all of high school basketball, regardless of class. He could be the latest elite talent out of Chicago to team up with Calipari.


    Julius Randle

    6-8, 235, forward

    Plano, Texas

    Rivals: 4

    Scout: 3

    ESPN: 3

    MaxPreps: 4

    Notes: Another major target in the class of 2013. A point forward with tremendous size, he's being recruited by just about every major program in the country.

    Troy Williams

    6-6, 190, Small forward

    Hampton, Va.

    Rivals: 14

    Scout: 8

    ESPN: 7

    MaxPreps: 17

    Notes: The nephew of AAU legend Boo Williams, who has a relationship with Calipari. He is expected to choose either UK or North Carolina in the next few weeks.

With Kentucky's basketball roster potentially just days away from being dismantled by an NBA exodus, many uncertainties remain about the makeup of next season's team.

Two of the biggest questions will be answered Wednesday night.

Nerlens Noel and Shabazz Muhammad — the top two high school seniors in the country — will announce their college intentions during a made-for-TV special to coincide with the first day of the spring signing period.

Both recruits have UK among their final three schools, and both would be considerable building blocks as the Cats try to "reload" once again under John Calipari, who will be interviewed as part of the ESPNU special.

Most recruiting services have Kentucky one spot behind Arizona in the race for the top class in the country. Landing Noel or Muhammad would give UK a chance to pass up the Pac-12 Wildcats. Securing a commitment from both would certainly be enough to clinch another No. 1 class.

Noel looks to be the most likely to choose Kentucky, which has emerged as the favorite for the consensus No. 1 player in 2012.

On Tuesday, a panel of seven ESPN recruiting writers offered their predictions, with six saying Noel would choose the Cats. The other vote went to Georgetown. The 6-foot-10 center also has Syracuse on his list.

Noel told ESPN on Tuesday that he still had not made up his mind and planned to meet with his mother and others later that night to "see where we're most comfortable and what the best decision will be."

Calipari and the UK staff have been using the success of Anthony Davis to sell Noel on the program. Like Davis, Noel is a tremendous shot blocker. His offensive game is still a work in progress, but he was impressed with how Calipari used Davis in their run to the national championship.

"I'd factor in what my role would be offensively, like Anthony Davis with a lot of lobs and catching it at the high post and things like that," Noel told ESPN. "Defensively, I think it'll take care of itself."

Noel and Muhammad were teammates at the Nike Hoop Summit over the weekend, and will play on opposing teams in Saturday's Jordan Brand Classic.

Noel said Tuesday that he and Muhammad have spoken about the fact that they will announce the same night, but didn't talk about teaming up in college.

"We didn't talk about schools at all," Noel said. "We never have."

If they do play together at the next level, it will be at Kentucky. Muhammad is considering the Cats along with UCLA and Duke.

The same ESPN panel that predicted Noel would end up in Lexington was almost evenly split on Muhammad's destination. Four said UCLA; three said Kentucky. Duke is seen as a long shot to land the Las Vegas native.

Calipari and Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski met with Muhammad on Sunday to deliver their last-minute recruiting pitches. He was expected to make his decision Monday night in advance of Wednesday's announcement.

Muhammad would provide an immediate offensive spark to a UK team that is in danger of losing every major contributor other than Kyle Wiltjer.

Muhammad averaged 30.2 points and 10.4 rebounds while leading Bishop Gorman to a state title during his senior season. He was named the Naismith High School Player of the Year, the MVP of the McDonald's All-American Game, and broke Enes Kanter's Hoop Summit scoring record with 35 points in Saturday's game.

"Shabazz has everything going for him right now," ESPN analyst Dave Telep said Tuesday. "Offensively, there is not a peer for him in this class, and that sets him apart."

Wherever Noel and Muhammad end up, they'll likely play there for just one season.

NBADraft.net projects Muhammad to be the No. 1 pick in the 2013 draft, while DraftExpress.com has Noel in the top spot with Muhammad going No. 2.

Kentucky's incoming class currently consists of McDonald's All-Americans Alex Poythress and Archie Goodwin, four-star forward/center Willie Cauley-Stein, and point guard Ryan Harrow, who will be eligible to play after transferring last year from N.C. State.

Ben Roberts twitter: @NextCats. Blog: ukrecruiting.bloginky.com

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