Kentucky Basketball: Nerlens Noel the #1 Impact Freshman

Nerlens Noel will make an impact. How much of one depends upon how he addresses his weaknesses.(via SportsAngle.com)

At least, according to Myron Metcalf of ESPN.com:

1. Nerlens Noel (Kentucky, center): I watched the top recruit in the 2012 class compete in the Peach Jam tournament last summer. Wow. With the Wildcats, he’ll fill the defensive void created by Anthony Davis’ departure. He’s an amazing shot-blocker and interior defender. He’s raw on offense, but Davis needed time to develop on that end of the floor, too. John Calipari and his staff will turn Noel into a National Player of the Year candidate. He’s that good.

That's pretty high praise, and I confess, I didn't really see the NPOY in him from what I have seen. However, he will be a huge impact for Kentucky if he:

  • Learns to block without fouling. Davis was the best I have ever seen a that, and a big reason why is that he didn't follow through on blocks when he made them, and he waited until the ball was released to try to block it.

    Noel is an even quicker jumper than Davis was, or so it seems to me. That means that he can wait a tenth of a second or so longer before takeoff. The thing is, that is a learned skill, and a little counter-intuitive.
  • Develops a 15' and in game. Right now, Noel's jump shot is really ugly -- I would even use the term "broken." If he can get it sufficiently fixed to extend his range out to the foul line, that would make him a much more dangerous player.
  • Develops his hooks. Noel already has a great start on both right- and left-handed hook shots, a much better start than Davis had on his. Calipari will develop that existing strength into a true offensive weapon, and if that happens, look out.
  • Bulks up a little. Right now, Noel is listed at about 215-220#. He needs to try to get to 235 before the season, because he can't do what Davis did and take players outside and off the dribble.
  • Learns to shoot free throws. Right now, he doesn't shoot them well at all, and he will be fouled a lot.

Noel is a very special player, and the reason he gets so many comparisons to Davis is because of his extraordinary shot-blocking ability along with his astonishing athleticism. But he lacks that guard's game that Davis developed before he grew to 6'10", and that's one of several things that made Davis so unique. Noel has always been a big man, and has none of the skills development with the ball in his hands that made Davis such a multidimensional threat.

However, Noel is much more comfortable near the basket than Davis was. That's where he's used to playing, and he has a big man's game that, because of his great athletic ability, will be tough for anyone to handle. But he has some holes in his game that must be addressed if he's going to reach his potential.

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