You’d be hard pressed to find a player in any class that impacts the game on both ends of the floor like Tilton’s (Tilton, N.H.) Nerlens Noel.
From swatting shots to deflections to low post scoring, Noel, a junior center who is ranked No. 2 in the ESPNU 60, dominates to the tune of 12 points, 12 rebounds and eight blocks a game.
This past summer he led the Boston Amateur Basketball Club AAU team to the prestigious Nike Peach Jam title and struck fear in the hearts of every elite big man in the country, making them think twice about taking shots in his lane.
That’s made Noel a must-have for most of the country’s elite college programs, one of which is Syracuse.
“Syracuse has told me that I’m their top priority in the class,” said Noel, who has heard the same spiel from Kentucky, Florida, Connecticut, Georgetown and Louisville, among others. “I had a really good time when I visited there for Midnight Madness.”
But have allegations against longtime assistant Bernie Fine, who has been accused by three men of molestation and recently placed on administrative leave, turned Noel off to the Orangemen?
“Well, if it was Coach (Jim) Boeheim it’d be a different story,” Noel said. “But I wouldn’t stop looking at them based off of what an assistant coach may have done years ago. I don’t think that’s fair.”
Noel said he hadn’t spoken with Fine regularly throughout his recruitment, only when he visited the campus. Noel’s primary recruiter is assistant coach Mike Hopkins.
“Coach Fine came up to me on my visit and just basically was recruiting me,” Noel said. “He just asked how much I liked the campus and things like that. He seemed nice.”
Noel admitted that part of the appeal of playing for Syracuse is Boeheim, but added that “Coach Hopkins is a great coach too.”
“I hope Coach Boeheim is there, but I’m not taking them off of my list if he’s not,” Noel said. “Coach Hopkins is next in line at Syracuse, and I would love to play for him. The whole situation is unfortunate, but I’m just as interested in Syracuse as I was before this all happened.”