Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

'Bad Break' for Gifted Noel

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

'Bad Break' for Gifted Noel

Article excerpt

It's nobody's fault.

It's not David Stern's fault. The NBA commissioner is doing his job in protecting his business interests, clinging to a rule that allows franchises another year to evaluate talent as high school graduates play a year of college basketball, like it or not.

It's not that cameraman's fault, the one sitting in a chair below the basket. He's the one Nerlens Noel appeared to be trying to avoid as the Kentucky center landed awkwardly on his left knee Tuesday night. Noel's anterior cruciate ligament was torn. His season and probably his college career have met a premature end.

It's not the officials' fault. Or Billy Donovan's fault. Or the Florida fans' fault. Or the NCAA's fault.

In horse racing, it's called a "bad step." In other sports, it's called a bad break.

That's not something we've said much around here during John Calipari's four-year run as UK basketball coach. Truth is, we were overdue.

Before this season, how many games has a Calipari starter or significant contributor missed because of illness or injury? One? Two? Three? Maybe.

John Wall missed a game Calipari's first season because of an NCAA suspension. Terrence Jones sprained a finger last season. That's about it.

This season alone, Ryan Harrow missed four November games with a mysterious illness. Willie Cauley-Stein missed four games recently after a minor procedure on his left knee. Given recent history, that seems like a rash of injuries.

Moreover, how many times in the first three seasons has a star- studded prospect not lived up to his press clippings?

This year, Harrow is having his struggles. Archie Goodwin is having his struggles. Alex Poythress is having his struggles. A team ranked No. 3 in the preseason is about to fall out of the Top 25 yet again.

In every life, a little rain must fall, right?

Noel is the one player who has lived up to his hype. Not the Anthony Davis hype. He's not A.D. He's never going to be. He's Nerlens Noel, a shot-swatter extraordinaire who gets the most out of his minutes. In fact, as Florida's Donovan so aptly pointed out Tuesday night, it was a hustle play -- Noel sprinting back to block a Florida shot after a Kentucky turnover -- that ended in injury. …

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