All-access at Kentucky: Nerlens Noel
Long before he was hailed as a potential All-American and future NBA millionaire, Nerlens Noel was a crybaby. Or at least that's how his older brother, Jim, remembers him as a youngster competing on blacktops in the Boston suburb of Everett, Mass. Jim said he and middle brother, Rodman, played countless 2-on-2 games against Nerlens and one of his friends. "Nerlens would call everything -- even the slightest foul -- and then whine about it for the next 10 minutes," says Jim, chuckling. "We'd have to stop the game each time to give him a chance to calm down." Things began to change, though, after Noel made the varsity team at Everett High School as a freshman. Jim was a senior on the squad and Rodman was a sophomore. In a timeout during a game against a crosstown rival, Everett coach John DiBiaso drew up a play that called for Jim to throw a lob pass to Nerlens for a dunk. Jim was stunned. "I remember thinking to myself, 'There's no way Nerlens is going to get this alley-oop,'" he says. "I had never seen him do it before. But I threw it up there and he dunked it with ease."
As it became more and more obvious that Noel would have a lucrative career in the NBA, people close to him expressed concern about some of the figures he'd allowed into his inner circle. One former mentor, George Wright-Easy, even told The New York Times that Noel was like "a piece of meat" with whom various people wanted to be associated in hopes of future financial gain.
King: All-Access With UK Freshmen
Nerlens Noel and his freshman teammates are barely old enough to vote in the upcoming election. But at Kentucky, they are rock stars, the next wave of talent, the next great hope of another national title, writes Jason King. Story
Our cameras have been all over UK and each Wednesday we'll be bringing you an All-Access Kentucky special at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN. Tune in here.
The second of two Saturday practices has just ended at the Joe Craft Center, and the Kentucky Wildcats are huddled at midcourt. Well, most of them. On a side basket about 30 feet away, Noel stands alone shooting left-handed hook shots. He misses five in a row, then a sixth miss and a seventh. After his eighth straight errant shot, Noel finally gets one to fall. "There ya go," yells Calipari, clapping as Noel walks toward the huddle with his hands on his head, taking deep breaths. "Don't worry. You'll get better."