Noel Making Up for Lost Time

NORTH AUGUSTA, S.C. – Nerlens Noel made up for lost time this week at the Peach Jam.

Last winter the 6-foot-10, 200-pound center cracked a growth plate in his knee, landing him in a cast and on the sidelines for the entire 2010 season. This summer the 15-year old Noel reclassified from the 2012 class to the 2013 class to offset the time lost from his injury and has since made a splash with his defense on the BABC team in North Augusta.

Through the end of pool play Noel led the tournament in blocks with 4.7 per game and was third in rebounds with 8.5 per game.

"He's a great interior defender. He's a real thinker he understands the game," BABC coach Leo Papile said. "He's got three years ahead of him in high school so the sky is the limit."

Noel and BABC were eliminated from the Peach Jam Wednesday night with a 70-63 loss to Team Final in overtime. But in his final game of the tournament Noel had 13 points, eight rebounds and three blocks against five-star center Rakeem Christmas. Christmas had nine points on 4-for-4 shooting but had to sit part of the first half after picking up fouls on Noel.

"I think I did pretty good," Noel said of the matchup. "I give him his props. I think I did good getting him in foul trouble early so he could sit."

Noel's biggest impact is without a doubt on the defensive end but his offensive skills are improving by the day. Against Team Final, Noel faced up against defenders comfortably and also displayed a couple post moves. He's not a finished product offensively but the instincts are there and he's further along than many post players his age. He averaged eight points for the tournament.

"I'm still working on it," Noel said. "I show a lot of flashes but I'm working on staying in the mindset of both defense and offense consistently. Working on being more aggressive and getting in the weight room."

Noel said he's considering a long list of schools including Syracuse, Providence, Pitt, Boston College, Florida and UConn and has received scholarship offers from Georgetown, Providence, Miami, UCLA and Florida.

Noel said he's received mail from North Carolina and would definitely consider the Tar Heels if he heard more from them. Roy Williams was courtside for at least one of his games at the Peach Jam.

"I like them," Noel said of the Tar Heels. "I like their tradition. If I get more interest it could be up there in my top schools."

While there was plenty of good news to go around for Noel, he admitted he was a little frustrated looking back at the week. For most of the second half against Team Final, Noel limped while he walked, favoring his braced knee. After the game, Noel spent most of the time meeting rubbing his knee.

"I don't think I was as consistent as I wanted to be because my knee started to wear down," Noel said. "It is frustrating because I don't really have the explosion back that I used to but I'm getting there."

The injured bone in his knee grew back too long, according to Nerlens, and it's been a little weak during games. He plans on trying to strengthen the knee through extensive time in the gym but he said surgery is a possibility in August.

While his limp was noticeable when he was walking around during the games, it didn't seem to bother him too much once he got going. He might not have the explosiveness he's used to but it was enough to keep up with one of the top big men in the country in Christmas.

"He's thin but he doesn't get pushed around too much. He holds his own. Especially playing up two divisions, that's unusual," Papile said. "He's the best big guy we have in the program."

Noel's performance against older players shouldn't come as too much of a surprise since he has toughness in his genes. His oldest brother Jim was a freshman cornerback on the Boston College football team last fall and his other brother will join the Maryland football team this year, according to Papile.

Noel said the next step for him will be to continue to work on his face-up game and get his knee stronger in the weight room. But while his injury has slowed down his road to college basketball he said it's helped him in the end.

"It's made me stronger mentally," Noel said.

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