High-SchoolMassachusetts: Nerlens Noel

Nerlens' Notebook: UK all the way

April, 20, 2012
4/20/12
11:22
AM ET
Nerlens NoelESPNHS IllustrationNerlens Noel, the top-ranked player in the ESPNU 100, blogs about his recruiting experience.
Nerlens Noel | Senior | Center | Tilton School (Tilton, N.H.)

Read all of Nerlens' Notebooks

After reclassifying from 2013 to 2012, Nerlens Noel went from being the No. 2-ranked junior to the No. 1-ranked senior in the ESPNU 100. He recently picked Kentucky over Georgetown and Syracuse. Noel has agreed to give ESPNHS exclusive access into his world by chronicling his thoughts in a blog.

What’s up, everyone. It’s the newest member of Big Blue Nation!

By now everyone knows that I picked Kentucky, and I am definitely happy with my decision and that’s it’s all finally over. I never let it get to the point that it stressed me out, but it was a lot to think about and it was a big decision so now I can just relax and focus on working to improve.

I know y’all liked the “UK” that I got cut into my head, right? I had been thinking about doing something big leading up to the decision, and that’s what I came up with. James McDonald from VIP Barbershop in Charlotte, N.C., hooked me up while I was in town for the Jordan Brand Classic.

I’ve decided to keep the “UK” throughout the college season. So it’s not going anywhere.

After the decision, I had a lot of fun at the Jordan Brand Classic. It’s one of the best events I’ve ever been to. We met Jadakiss, Kenny “The Jet” Smith and saw Fabolous perform after the game. The whole week was fun.

I got a chance to talk to my man Anthony Davis for a quick second at the game, too. He welcomed me to Big Blue Nation, and since I’ve been committed I’ve talked to Ryan Harrow and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Everyone’s excited about next year, but not as much as me.

I know that it’s gonna be a crazy year. I’ll probably get down there in June or July.

I think I’m mostly looking forward to the college life. I’m looking forward to more freedom. Here everything is really structured and scheduled, but in college you’ve got to be more responsible and you can get things done on your own time. I’m really looking forward to that.

My goals for next year are to win a national title first and foremost.

Then I want to beat Anthony Davis’ shot-block record, and I want to win National Player of the Year. I definitely plan to put the work in to accomplish those goals.

Other than that, I know a lot of people are asking if I’ve signed yet, and I am planning to sign this week. And I’m definitely going hard trying to get more guys to come play with me next year.

I’m trying to get Anthony Bennett. I’m not even sure where he’s at in his recruitment, but I think I can probably get it done. I’d say I have a little higher than a 50 percent chance of getting it done.

We’ll see how it goes.

Well, once again, thanks for reading my blog everyone and hanging out with me the whole time I was deciding on a college. It was a long process, but I’m glad it’s over and I’m glad to be a Kentucky Wildcat!

I’m out.

Don't forget to follow Nerlens Noel on Twitter: @NerlensNoel3

Nerlens' Notebook: Pre-decision thoughts

April, 10, 2012
4/10/12
11:44
AM ET
Nerlens NoelESPNHS IllustrationNerlens Noel, the top-ranked player in the ESPNU 100, blogs about his recruiting experience.
Nerlens Noel | Senior | Center | Tilton School (Tilton, N.H.)

Read all of Nerlens' Notebooks

After reclassifying from 2013 to 2012, Nerlens Noel went from being the No. 2-ranked junior to the No. 1-ranked senior in the ESPNU 100. Since then, heavyweight programs like UConn, Kentucky, North Carolina and Syracuse, among others, have scrambled to get him on campus next season. He recently narrowed his choices to Kentucky, Georgetown and Syracuse. Noel has agreed to give ESPNHS exclusive access into his world by chronicling his thoughts in a blog.


What’s good, everybody. Like I promised, I’m back to check in with you guys and get a few thoughts out before I make my big decision.

It’s my birthday today, so I’m back home to celebrate with my family but also to sit down with them and talk about these schools and come up with a decision.

Before I get into that, I know everyone was talking about the game we lost the other night against the World Team in the Nike Hoop Summit.

We were all feeling pretty down after the loss. It was tough. I thought we competed a lot better in the second half because coach (Kevin) Boyle made some good adjustments. He wanted us to pick it up defensively and we definitely did.

They missed their first 12 shots and that allowed us to get back in it, but they made some big shots in the end and got the win.

The locker room was a little quiet at first, but we had good leaders that spoke up and made us all feel a little better. Like Mitch (McGary), he just talked about how we were a family and that we were all brothers and that we played our hearts out. It made a lot of us feel better.

OK, so back to the announcement. Like I said, tonight we’re gonna have a group discussion and write things out and see where we’re most comfortable and what the best decision will be. The rumors about me already being committed are just crazy.

Anyone who knows me knows my mom, Dorcina, has to sign off on any decision and that she will play a major part in any decision. So tonight is when I’ll talk to her about it all.

Any “recruiting guy” saying they got some news from a “source” is funny too because the source would have to be me or my mom and they’re not talking to her and I don’t talk to anyone. Like I always say, only believe what you read here.

This is such a tough decision, though. I look at Syracuse and I love the way that the coaches say that they’ll use me in their offense. I really like the family atmosphere there and I feel really comfortable there. Syracuse has been on me the longest of all three schools and that is big for me.

Then you’ve got Georgetown, and I really just like everything about them. When I went down there with my mom, it really opened my eyes to what they were all about. I have to factor in what a school like that can do for me, even away from being a basketball player. It’s just a great school and they have a history of developing big men. Georgetown is definitely a great option for me.

Then there’s Kentucky.

Of course they’re coming off the national championship, but I’d look more at how I’d be able to fit in and how I’d be used there. 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. Defensively I think it’ll take care of itself.

So as you all can see, this thing won’t be easy. Of course me and Shabazz (Muhammad) will be deciding at the same time and I talked to him about that at the Hoop Summit, but we didn’t talk about schools at all. We never have.

I read the story where all the players gave predictions on where me and Shabazz would go. That was pretty funny. Man, they were sleeping pretty hard on the other schools, but everyone’s entitled to their own opinions.

Well, I’ve definitely got some celebrating to do and some discussing to do with my family, so I’m gonna head out now everyone. Definitely check out the decision (7:30 p.m. ET Wednesday on ESPNU) and again, I have 100 percent not made any decision yet because I really don’t know.

Thanks, as always, for reading.

I'll holler at y'all later.

Don't forget to follow Nerlens Noel on Twitter: @NerlensNoel3

Nerlens' Notebook: Decision day set

April, 4, 2012
4/04/12
5:30
PM ET
Nerlens NoelESPNHS IllustrationNerlens Noel, the top-ranked player in the ESPNU 100, blogs about his recruiting experience.
Nerlens Noel | Senior | Center | Tilton School (Tilton, N.H.)

Read all of Nerlens' Notebooks

After reclassifying from 2013 to 2012, Nerlens Noel went from being the No. 2-ranked junior to the No. 1-ranked senior in the ESPNU 100. Since then, heavyweight programs like UConn, Kentucky, North Carolina and Syracuse, among others, have scrambled to get him on campus next season. He recently narrowed his choices to Kentucky, Georgetown and Syracuse. Noel has agreed to give ESPNHS exclusive access into his world by chronicling his thoughts in a blog.

Hey, what’s up, everybody. Of course it’s me, Nerlens. Sorry I haven’t written in my blog in a couple weeks. Things have been pretty crazy.

I just got back from New Orleans playing in the All-American Championships and had a ball. The game was fun, of course, just playing with all my boys, but we had even more fun hanging out in the city.

I checked out Bourbon Street and, man, that was just crazy! No other word for that.

I’ve never taken that many pictures in my life. Ever.

I literally got stopped hundreds of times and took dozens and dozens of pictures. The fans were showing me so much love out there, and I definitely have to say that most of the fans were from Kentucky.

Now, of course that had a lot to do with the fact that they were playing there, but I’m always just shocked at how dedicated Kentucky fans are. One man asked me if I wanted to take his wife home with me, ha ha. I couldn’t believe it. I was like, “Nah, I’m good,” but that’s just how insane the fans were down there. Great atmosphere.

OK, so by now I assume most of you guys know that I cut my list to Kentucky, Georgetown and Syracuse a few weeks back. I just thought it was time to get it down to the schools that I was really looking at the hardest.

Kentucky had the big win Monday night and I had a good time watching that game. I was really liking how Anthony Davis continued to be effective even without scoring the ball. I know how it feels to not be able to get it going on the offensive end at times, and that makes you just want to go even harder defensively. I loved that he got Most Outstanding Player, too.

Just seeing him have all the success that he’s had this year definitely makes me think a lot about what I could be doing there. That’s really appealing to me.

His IQ on the court is crazy. I talked to him a lot while I was down there and he told me all about how much better he’d gotten since he got there. He told me that I’d have to be ready when I got there because it was going to be a lot of hard work.

I’d definitely say it makes me think about Kentucky more, and with them winning with all of those freshmen was very attractive. Just seeing that it doesn’t matter how young you are, you can win a national title.

I talked to (Kentucky assistant) coach Orlando (Antigua) after they won and he was really happy, of course. He said that all he could think about was me being a part of something like that next season.

I wouldn’t say that all of that stuff gives Kentucky an advantage, though. It’s just something I think about a lot.

With Syracuse, they’ve been on me the longest of the three schools on my list. That factors in heavy with me. That’s big for me. With Georgetown, I would've been crazy not to really give them a look with all the history they’ve had with big men and the development that I could get there.

This is going to be a hard decision, y’all.

I’ve decided to announce my decision a week from today on ESPN, so I’ve got a lot of thinking to do between now and then. And I’ve heard the rumors about me making a decision already. That’s not true. Rumors are rumors, what can you do, but just know that I'm far from a decision no matter what you hear.

Like I always say, don’t believe things you don’t read from me right here in my blog. I definitely haven’t made up my mind yet.

Me and Shabazz Muhammad are deciding at the same time on ESPN, so that should be pretty cool. It’s definitely just a coincidence, because me and Shabazz have never even talked about schools or anything like that.

I would love to play with him in college, though, but we’ve never talked about that and he’s got to do what’s best for him like I’ve got to do what’s best for me.

I will say that one of the biggest factors in my decision will be who will be there on the team when I get there because my No. 1 goal is to win a national title.

OK, everybody, I’ve got to run off to class now, but I’m planning to do another blog next week before I decide so check back for that. And I’m going to have something cool planned for how I announce on TV so definitely check that out, too.

Now if only I could figure out which school that’s going to be …

OK, thanks again for reading, everyone. I’m out.

Don't forget to follow Nerlens Noel on Twitter: @NerlensNoel3

Nerlens' Notebook: Kentucky, 'Cuse visits

February, 20, 2012
2/20/12
11:17
AM ET
Nerlens NoelESPNHS IllustrationNerlens Noel, the top-ranked player in the ESPNU 100, blogs about his recruiting experience.
Nerlens Noel | Senior | Center| Tilton School (Tilton, N.H.)

Noel Blog 1

After reclassifying from 2013 to 2012, Nerlens Noel went from being the No. 2-ranked junior to the No. 1-ranked senior in the ESPNU 100. Now heavyweight programs like UConn, Kentucky, North Carolina and Syracuse, among others, are scrambling to get Noel on campus next season. That makes him the most sought-after player in the country. Noel has agreed to give ESPNHS exclusive access into his world by chronicling his thoughts in a blog.

What’s up, world!

This is Boston’s own Nerlens Noel and I’m back with my next blog entry. Things have definitely picked up since I reclassified, but it hasn’t been too bad. I don’t let it get too crazy.

I’ve taken two visits since I reclassified, first to Syracuse and I’m actually just getting back from Kentucky now. Both of the visits had to be unofficial because I have to get a lot of paperwork processed at my school before everything’s final, so until that happens all of my visits have to be unofficial. I think everything will be final by around early March.

I went to Syracuse on Feb. 10 and I had a really good time there. Their fans were great, and I spent a lot of time with the coaches and the players. When I first got there I met up with coach Jim Boeheim in the Carmelo Anthony center and we had a good talk. He talked to me about how he would use me in their system and things like that.

After that we went to their game against UConn. It was crazy. They had 30,000 fans in there screaming, so it was really loud. It was a really good game, too. Syracuse won, so the fans were obviously happy.

I looked in the crowd and I saw that one of the fans had a Fathead of me. That was crazy. I couldn’t believe that they had that, but it just goes to show how dedicated the fans are there. That night I hung out with the players and had a good time. The next morning I went to their practice before they headed off to Louisville.

This past weekend I went to Kentucky.

I got there Friday morning and went to their practice for about an hour. I really liked the way they practice there. I just like the momentum they have in their practice. The practices are short, but they get everything done that they need to get in. It’s really productive.

I went to the game the next day and the fans most definitely lived up to the hype. They were just real live and they chanted my name about eight times. It was so loud in there.

One of the fans came up to me and said “SEC girls love flattops!” I thought that was pretty funny. I really liked watching them play, and sitting behind the bench I got a real feel about how they do it. Coach John Calipari really gets on them when they make mistakes so they won’t make them again. I was impressed.

I got a chance to talk to coach Cal a lot during my visit. He talked a lot about how I could come in there and work hard and succeed. He talked a lot about playing at the NBA level and things like that. I thought we had a really good talk.

I did notice that coach Cal’s and coach Boeheim’s recruiting styles are a lot different. Coach Boeheim is way more laid back. He lets you know that he wants you, but he doesn’t press it too much. Coach Cal tells you everything about how he’ll use you, where you’ll fit in, everything.

Both visits were a lot of fun and I took a lot from them.

I’ve had a few schools call me more since the news broke about me reclassifying. I actually talked to coach Mike Krzyzewski the day after my first blog. That was pretty cool just talking to him. I like Coach K a lot. He was telling me about the situation down there for next year.

I talked to him twice after that, but I ended up telling them that I wasn’t interested in Duke. I like Coach K, but I just didn’t have any interest in them.

I’m excited about my next few visits to Florida, North Carolina and Georgetown, but I don’t know what order those visits will be in and I don’t have any dates on those yet. I’ll definitely let you guys know, though.

I’m gonna visit Providence and UConn too because they’re so close to me. I’ve been hearing from all of the coaches from those schools for the most part.

Other than that, we’ve got the big game against Brewster Academy (Wolfeboro, N.H.) today. We’re all ready for this game, of course. This will be the third time we’ve played them this year and they took the first two. We’ll be a little shorthanded with my man Wayne Selden out.

He’s got a really bad sprained ankle and we’ll miss him a lot, but I think we’re capable of pulling out the win. We’ve got a good game plan, and as long as we play hard we should be OK.

I do think that we’ll see them again in the championship, though. Either way, I just want to win.

I was happy for all the guys who made the McDonald’s All-American game. I really wished I could’ve made it, but I understand about the rules and all. I probably should’ve tried to reclass a little earlier, but I understand.

Well, that’s it for now, everyone.

Oh, you guys remember if you don’t read it from me here on my blog, in my own words, then it’s not true.

Thanks again for reading, and I hope you guys come back for my next blog real soon.

Don't forget to follow Nerlens Noel on Twitter: @NerlensNoel3

Nerlens' Notebook: Back to 2012

February, 3, 2012
2/03/12
9:33
AM ET
Nerlens Noel | Senior | Center| Tilton School (Tilton, N.H.)

After reclassifying from 2013 to 2012, Nerlens Noel went from being the No. 2-ranked junior to the No. 1-ranked senior in the ESPNU 100. Now heavyweight programs like UConn, Kentucky, North Carolina and Syracuse, among others, are scrambling trying to get Noel on campus next season. That makes him the most sought-after player in the country. Noel has agreed to give ESPNHS exclusive access into his world by chronicling his thoughts in a blog.

What’s happening everyone, this is Boston’s own Nerlens Noel, and I’m excited to be starting my blog.

Noel
Steve Johnson/ESPNHSNerlens Noel said he wants to decide around the time of the McDonald's All-American game.
By now most of you know that I’ve reclassified from 2013 to 2012. It was official as of Wednesday night. It was something that I had been thinking about for months, and I talked it over with my family and we came to the final decision. I really just felt like I was ready to come back to my original class.

Most people don’t know that I was always supposed to be in the 2012 class, but during my sophomore year I cracked my growth plate in my left knee and that kept me out for around six weeks. I played the first five games of the season and then I missed the rest of the season.

At the time, I thought the best option was to reclassify to 2013 because of all the time I missed, but I worked really hard and I felt like I was ready to come back to 2012.

Basically, I checked on things academically and I made sure that I had all of the credits to reclassify and I have everything lined up now.

I’m really excited about it. It’s weird because now I’m gonna be in college next season. That’s kinda crazy when I think about it.

When I came into the season I wasn’t sure that I was gonna do it, but after playing really well against all of the big time guys last summer and this season it kinda put my decision to come back to 2012 over the top. I know that I’ll be able to contribute right away to whatever college I decide to go to.

Of course everyone wants to know about my recruitment even more now and I’m gonna clear something up; I don’t really have an “official” list. The list I put out is of the schools that I’m really interested in and schools that I’m gonna take official visits to.

Those schools are Kentucky, Florida, North Carolina and Georgetown. I’m visiting Syracuse on Feb. 11, but I’m not sure if that will be an official visit since it’s closer to me. I’ll decide that in the next day or two. I don’t have dates for the other visits. I’ll set those up soon.

I’ll also visit Providence and UConn unofficially, but there could be other visits.

There are things I love about all of the schools.

With Syracuse I love the environment over there. It’s so live. I like the players there and I’ve built a great relationship with the coaching staff. With Kentucky, I really love the fan base. They’re crazy supportive, especially on Twitter. I’ve been building a solid relationship with the coaches there too.

Florida is one of the first schools that started recruiting me. I like the coaches and I like the school. Georgetown has a history that speaks for itself, and I just love their offense. They really do a great job with their big men.

North Carolina has a great history and a great coach in Roy Williams. I haven’t spoken to him yet, but I like the school and I like what they do. They just came in with me recently.

Providence has been on me for a while. I just love what they’re doing there and I’ve got a great relationship with Ricky Ledo, he’s been recruiting me really hard to come there with him. UConn is another one of those schools that speaks for itself. They produce really strong big men, and I think a lot of Coach Jim Calhoun and his staff. They really know how to develop their players.

As you all can see this won’t be an easy decision.

I’ve definitely had some players hitting me up since I reclassified. The first player to hit me up was Rasheed (Sulaimon), who’s going to Duke. He was basically just talking about how there would be an open spot for me to come to Duke and how he wanted me to come join him. That’s definitely something I would look at. Duke has been in contact with me, but I haven’t heard from them in a little while.

Archie (Goodwin), who’s going to Kentucky, hit me up too. We didn’t talk directly about Kentucky. We were just talking about video games and talking about the summer.

Things of course have been crazy in the last 24 hours. I think I’ve gained over 1,000 followers on Twitter since last night. It’s funny because I must get about 20 mentions on Twitter every five minutes.

One of the things I thought about was whether I would miss out on postseason all-star games like the Jordan Brand Classic and the McDonald’s All-American games. I feel like I’m just in time so hopefully I’ll have a chance to make those two games.

We’ll see what happens. I would love to have a decision around the McDonald’s game after I visit all the schools that I want to see.

I know by now there are a lot of rumors popping up about me and my recruitment, but I just want to say that I have no favorites at all. There’s no official list because I’m open to different schools.

Basically, if you don’t read it from me here on my blog, in my own words, then it’s not true.

Well, I want to thank everyone for reading my first blog. I hope everyone liked it, and I hope you guys come back for my next blog, which will be after I visit Syracuse on Feb. 11.

I’ll catch you guys next time.

Don't forget to follow Nerlens Noel on Twitter: @NerlensNoel3
The No. 1 team in the Massachusetts POWERADE state rankings didn't play last week, with St. Mark's taking the week off, but the No. 2 team had no such luck.

Northfield-Mt. Hermon not only played - the Hoggers had to take on Tilton (N.H.), which features one of the nation's top players in junior center Nerlens Noel. The No. 2 player in the ESPNU Super 60, Noel led Tilton over NMH, 87-66. Because the loss came to an out-of-state opponent, it won't affect Northfield's ranking too much going forward.

POWERADE State Basketball Rankings
  1. St. Mark's (15-2) — Last week: No. 1
  2. Northfield-Mt. Hermon (13-2) — Last week: No. 2
  3. Central Catholic (15-0) — Last week: No. 3
Click for complete POWERADE state rankings.

Everett native Nerlens Noel is the nation's top defensive big man

November, 17, 2011
11/17/11
11:14
AM ET
NerlensNoel_1Kelly Kline/ESPNHSThe Tilton School junior Nerlens Noel is No. 2 in the ESPNU 60
This story originally appeared in the Holiday issue of ESPNHS magazine’s Massachusetts edition. Since it was published, Noel reclassified to the Class of 2012 and took the No. 1 spot in the ESPNU 100. He will make his college decision April 11 on ESPN and is down to a final three of Georgetown, Kentucky and Syracuse.

Chances are you noticed, so we might as well address it right off the bat.

Nerlens Noel has excellent hair.

The high-top fade is certainly a bold fashion choice for a kid born in the mid-’90s, when the style was seemingly on its last legs. Sure, people have sported the cut from time to time since then — Milwaukee Bucks star Brandon Jennings comes to mind — but Noel has worn the ‘do with authority for nearly two years.

So invariably, people notice. And invariably, people ask.

“I think mainly just growing up, watching a lot of Will Smith,” he says by way of explanation.

Noel’s favorite show is “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” Smith’s first major acting gig, but he’s also into “House Party,” a 1990 movie starring Kid ‘n’ Play — the duo of rappers-turned-actors who helped popularize the hairstyle.

And it’s not just the hair.

“He likes the flattop and the snap-back hats and all that,” says Noel’s brother Rodman. “He thinks he’s an ’80s baby.”

Without making too much of a hairstyle that could, after all, be gone by the time you read this, the point is that Noel has no qualms with making a statement. And once you get past the hair, the first thing you notice about Noel is that the 6-foot-10 Everett native can jump. He’s athletic and can dunk with ease, but the leaping ability is most noticeable on defense, where he menacingly roams the paint for The Tilton School (Tilton, N.H.).

“He’s an uncanny defensive player,” says Tilton coach Marcus O’Neil. “He has unusual and exceptional quick-ness on defense.”

Those attributes have made Noel the top shot blocker in the country regardless of class. Rated the nation’s No. 2 junior in the ESPNU 60, Noel averaged 13 points, 10 rebounds and five blocks per game last winter as Tilton captured the NEPSAC Class AA title.

Which is not to say last season was always easy for Noel. It was his first year at Tilton, and he often missed his family and his hometown.

“The first couple months was really an adjustment,” he says, “(but) just having a lot of friends up here that I know from AAU basketball just really made it more comfortable for me.”

Those same friends had factored into his decision to attend Tilton in the first place. Noel plays with BABC, one of the top AAU programs in the country, and over the past few years a number of the team’s players have gone on to prep at Tilton. They include Alex Oriakhi and Jamal Coombs-McDaniel, who like Noel were from Massachusetts. After Tilton, the pair went on to help UConn capture a national championship last season.
NerlensNoel_2
Kelly Kline/ESPNHSNerlens Noel said he wants to decide around the time of the McDonald's All-American game.

The opportunity to play with and against top talent trumped Noel’s hometown pride. Everett is first and foremost a football town, as evidenced by the fact that his two older brothers, Rodman (N.C. State) and Jim (Boston College), now play Division I football after starting for the Crimson Tide. Nerlens decided that Tilton gave him the best chance to succeed.

“I think it’s really one of the best high schools in the country,” he says. “And I think anybody that can come in and play in this league can play almost anywhere.

“There were also academic considerations. Nerlens spent two years at Everett and had found his groove by the time he left, but by reclassifying last year he was able to get a better base academically. With the individual tutoring he receives at Tilton, it’ll be that much easier for him to satisfy the NCAA Clearinghouse requirements.

This was a huge selling point for his mother, Dorcina.

“The education of my son comes first, before the NBA,” she says.

Dorcina and her husband, Yonel, came to the Boston area from Haiti in 1990. They eventually split up, and for much of Nerlens’ life his mom was forced to work two jobs, until a back injury limited her mobility.

Seeing his mom struggle has made Noel strive even harder “to make it for myself and my family.”

“It definitely builds a drive, just knowing that you got to work hard and nothing is given,” he says. “You’ve got to work hard for what you want to be successful.”

This year will be a big one for Noel. As a junior, he’ll receive even more attention from colleges, and he plans on releasing a list of his early favorites at some point this fall. Moreover, he’ll be looked upon to lead Tilton, which plays a tough national schedule, both on and off the court.

“Last year I played a leading role, too, but I’m just going to take it to another level this year,” Noel says. “Just take some of the guys under my wing, keeping them relaxed, not letting the nerves get to them.”

Before he gets to the next level, Noel is trying to expand his offensive repertoire and add “good weight” to his frame. He doesn’t yet have the bulk to really bang down low with college-sized centers.

But maybe he won’t have to. His favorite player is Kevin Garnett, and while Noel’s face-up game doesn’t yet match that of the Celtics star, he’s equally active — and talkative — on the defensive end.

“He’s a fierce competitor who doesn’t back down to anybody on the other team,” says O’Neil. “He’d be happy if the other team didn’t score a point.”

That competitive drive pairs nicely with his defensive instincts and extreme athleticism. And you can’t question his swagger — just look at that hair.

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