UK Men's Basketball

UK basketball player profile: Nerlens Noel has tough act to follow

Nerlens Noel played an informal game with Wildcat super fan William Bolden, aka "Stone Cold Willow," on a student court outside Memorial Coliseum. Alex Poythress also played on the student courts for a crowd of fans, most of whom were camping overnight for Big Blue Madness tickets. Photo by Pablo Alcala | Staff
Nerlens Noel played an informal game with Wildcat super fan William Bolden, aka "Stone Cold Willow," on a student court outside Memorial Coliseum. Alex Poythress also played on the student courts for a crowd of fans, most of whom were camping overnight for Big Blue Madness tickets. Photo by Pablo Alcala | Staff Lexington Herald-Leader

This time a year ago, Kentucky Coach John Calipari prudently shied from the comparison of his former All-American Marcus Camby and then-incoming tall drink of water Anthony Davis. Late in the season, with Davis comfortable and dominating, the UK coach drew parallels.

So no surprise that a month ago Calipari took little liking to a likening of this year's would-be basket protector, freshman Nerlens Noel, to Davis.

"They're totally different," he said. "They're not even the same."

Whatever distinctions each player brings to the position of low-post hub, Noel saw flattery in a comparison to Davis.

"You're never mad about being compared to a great player like he was," Noel said. "But, then again, I understand I'm my own player."

Noel did not sound intimidated by the act he has to follow.

"Not many players have done what he's done," Noel said of Davis, who became UK's first national player of the year. "It's going to be a lot of work, but I'm capable of doing some of the things he'd done, yeah."

Noel played against Davis in the off-season.

"You really see how much he progressed as a player," Noel said of Davis.

As for how well he played against Davis, Noel said, "I think I played well against him. I definitely tried to bother his shot."

Calipari said he spoke with Davis about playing against Noel.

"'I kind of pushed him off the post,'" Calipari said of Davis' reply. To which, the UK coach said he replied, "You pushed him off the post?"

Davis never used bulk. Exquisite timing and effort were the tools of his trade.

"Anthony understood how to compete on (every) possession," Calipari said. "Nerlens is still learning. He will take possessions off. Well, you can't do that."

While reminding reporters that Davis needed time to blossom (no post game in the early going, pushed around in an exhibition game by Transylvania), Calipari said that Noel shared with Davis an innate skill that can be a building block for greatness.

"He's not ever going to be Shaq," the UK coach said of Noel. "But he's really quick and fast. He's got a quick twitch. If you're kind of slow going to the ball or slow reacting to the ball, you can't play. ... If you're kind of quick, really quick going to the ball, now you've got a chance of being special."

Calipari noted that Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist gave Kentucky that kind of advantage with last season's national championship team.

"This kid is the same way," he said of Noel. "He's the quickest on our team getting to the ball."

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