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Nerlens Noel (born April 10, 1994) is an American professional basketball player who currently plays for the Philadelphia 76ers of the National Basketball Association (NBA). His collegiate basketball career ended in his first season with a tear of his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) at the University of Kentucky. Noel was drafted with the 6th pick of the first round of the 2013 NBA Draft by the New Orleans Pelicans and was later traded to the Philadelphia 76ers.
Noel, a son of Haitian immigrants to the U.S., played one season at the University of Kentucky. He plays power forward and center, and was one of the top high school basketball players in the class of 2012. He is known for his trademark hi-top fade hairstyle.
Noel decided in April 2012 that he would be going to the University of Kentucky to play NCAA Division I basketball. He made his verbal commitment by revealing the UK logo shaved in the back of his head on national television. Since Noel was well known for his elite shot blocking abilities, fans and the media had high expectations for him to fill the shoes of Anthony Davis, who had just led the Kentucky Wildcats to a national championship in the previous season, was the 2011–2012 National Player of the Year in the NCAA, set a Kentucky and NCAA freshman single-season block record with 186.
On January 29, 2013, Noel set the UK single-game record with 12 blocks in a 87–74 team victory over #16 Ole Miss. 5 of the blocks happened while Noel had 4 personal fouls, and two of them were slam dunk attempts. The UK school record was previously 9 blocks in one game, set by Sam Bowie in 1981 and was then tied by Andre Riddick in 1993. Although he recorded only two points, Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy said in the post-game press conference that “[Noel] was the difference in the game” and that he is “an incredible defensive presence.” Ole Miss senior forward Murphy Holloway added that he believes Nerlens Noel is the “best shot blocker [he has] played against,” including Anthony Davis.
On February 12, 2013, in a game against the Florida Gators, Noel tore the ACL in his left knee after blocking a Florida lay-up, forcing him to sit out the remainder of the season. Before his injury, it was projected that he would be the 1st overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft. Despite his injury, Noel decided to declare for the 2013 draft on April 15, 2013. It is also said by scouts that his draft stock will not be badly affected, if at all, by declaring for this year.
Nerlens Noel has also been honored with many awards this year including, SEC Freshman Of The Year, SEC Defensive Player Of The Year, SEC First Team, SEC All Fresman Team, SEC Community Service Team. In addition to earning All-SEC first team honors by the league’s coaches, Noel earned first-team honors from the Associated Press. The AP has honored at least one UK freshman on the first team in four-consecutive seasons. Cousins and Wall both claimed the honor in 2010. Terrence Jones, was an honorable mention AP selection in 2011, and both Davis and Kidd-Gilchrist were honored a season ago. Noel was also named a Freshman All-American by Sporting News, and USBWA.