College football's National Signing Day has wound down, but there's one last late night reveal that pertains to...basketball? Yes, basketball. ESPNU's Dave Telep broke the news that Nerlens Noel, a consensus top 5 prospect in the class of 2013, has decided to reclassify to the class of 2012.
Noel, from The Tilton School in Connecticut, had been rumored to reclassify for some time. In various interviews at various times, Noel has both enabled and shot down the rumor. Noel, who was originally part of the 2012 class, now officially says he plans to graduate this spring and enroll in his college of choice this fall.
That's huge news, as Noel is one of the premier defensive big men in the country. In fact--and it may be blasphemy around these parts--he could be an even better interior defender than Kentucky's Anthony Davis. Noel will shoot to the top of the 2012 recruiting rankings, and ESPNU has already ascended him to #1 overall, ahead of Shabazz Muhammad. In essence, Noel replaces Andre Drummond, who had been atop the 2012 board before reclassifying and heading to UConn.
The Huskies are also noteworthy when it comes to Noel's recruitment. As one of the programs local to Noel (a Massachusetts native), Connecticut is a prime contender for Noel's commitment. He's already unofficially visited UConn and Providence, and will tour Syracuse on February 11. Noel isn't keeping his recruitment strictly local, though. He told ESPNU that he also plans to visit Kentucky, Florida, Georgetown and North Carolina.
Kentucky has been heavily involved in Noel's recruitment. John Calipari was so impressed by Noel's defensive prowess that Cal extended his first class of 2013 offer to Noel. Pragmatically though, Noel's decision to reclassify is more bad news than good when it comes to Kentucky's recruitment of the big fella.
First, Kentucky is limited by its current commitments, as three scholarships are already taken by signees Alex Poythress, Archie Goodwin, and Willie Cauley. While Cauley, who would man the center position, likely wouldn't scare Noel off, it's still worth noting that Kentucky has already "filled" its center spot. Further, Calipari may prefer to allocate its remaining scholarships and recruiting time to targets the Cats have been doggedly pursuing--most notably, Muhammad and Anthony Bennett. Finally, Noel may simply have more of a comfort level with the schools that are closest to him and have pursued him the longest. The less time Calipari has to recruit Noel, the less likely a positive outcome. Think Drummond or Jarnell Stokes.
Still, I expect Kentucky will factor heavily in Noel's recruitment. And if there's one thing Big Blue Nation has learned when it comes to recruiting: never count out Coach Cal.
Follow my Twitter feed (@JC_Hoops) for the latest updates and keep an eye out for the next 2012 big board update.