I met a good friend of mine for a Disciples game during pool play on the first night. I got there about a minute or two after the game had started, and asked my buddy if I had missed anything. "That kid over there just hit a really tough lay-up on the break. He got way up there," I was told. I glanced at the roster, and it was somebody named David Noel. I continued to keep an eye on Grier and Davis, expecting them to rise above the other kids on the floor. But this Noel kid actually appeared to be the Disciples' leader. He brought the ball up the floor against the press several times and had at least two or three really nice passes in the first half. He finished a few breaks, too. Fairly early in the second half, when he hit his third 16-foot jump shot of the game, my buddy and I looked at each other and we figured that the roster had to be wrong. The kid listed as Noel had to be Grier, we thought, because he was the one who was playing like a top-75 player.
"No, that was David Noel," Bob Gibbons told us after the game. "He's actually more highly-regarded as a football player." I was stunned. I thought he had a lot of promise as a basketballer, although I could see why he would be a fine wide receiver prospect – good height and end-to-end speed, a nice frame, and catches whatever comes in his direction. So when I put together a report for another site, Noel became the focus, and Grier and Davis, his more heralded teammates, became afterthoughts.
When the folks at IC asked for my thoughts on David Noel, the first thing I did was pull up that report from thirteen months ago. Here's what I had recorded:
David Noel from the Durham Disciples is a wing player who goes about 6-6, and he played very well. We watched their game hoping to check out Vincent Grier and Fabian Davis, two of his more hyped teammates. We figured he was actually Grier and there must have been some sort of roster error. An excellent athlete who moved the ball crisply with both the dribble and with the pass, Noel scored from both short and long range. Gibbons told us that he's being recruited primarily as a football player. I've never seen him on the gridiron, so I can't say for sure which sport is his bread-and-butter, but if it's football, he must be really good at it, because he's got a lot going for him as a hoopster.
Some media outlets and fans have been critical of Matt Doherty for recruiting a kid like Noel, who is not a consensus top-100 player. After watching him in three games over a weekend in May of last year, I would bet that most of those criticisms come from people who haven't seen Noel play. When I was asked about sleeper high-major wing players last summer, Noel's name was the first one off my tongue to anybody who would listen. He's not likely to have the kind of immediate impact that some of Doherty's other signees from the Class of 2002 should have next year, but people who are writing him off as a potential contributor are selling him short. He's an ACC-caliber athlete with a good, solid all-around game. He won't single-handedly lead the Tar Heels back to the top of the ACC heap, but he is capable of becoming a valuable piece to the puzzle.
IC's David Noel profile