Stop me if you’ve heard this before – the University of Kentucky has landed the nation’s top-ranked recruiting class, at least in the eyes of ESPN. The ranking was punctuated by top overall prospect Nerlens Noel – the 6’10” center from Massachusetts every school was in a scrum for – donning a blue-and-white cap during national signing day. Noel will be joined by three other recruits in ESPN’s Top 100: number 13 Alex Poythress (a small forward from Tennessee), number 15 Archie Goodwin (a shooting guard from Arkansas) and number 40 Willie Cauley (a center from Kansas).
This news shouldn’t come as a surprise. UK’s John Calipari has redefined what it means to be a successful recruiter on the college level, bringing big names like Derrick Rose to mid-majors like Memphis. Adding a national title to his extensive resume only grants him more clout on the recruitment circuit. And he’ll need all the help he can get since as many as six members of 2012′s Wildcat squad project to be first-rounders, depending on what mock draft you choose to follow. Re-populating Lexington with premium talent like this only ensures that Kentucky continues its dominant run.
On a completely unrelated note, it was disgusting to watch Nerlens Noel parading in front of a camera on national television, teasing Syracuse and Georgetown fans before ultimately going with the Wildcats. The move was most likely orchestrated by ESPN, but seeing Noel make his decision like that – in a Jordan Brand hoodie, no less – paints the picture of a 17-year-old trying a bit too hard to introduce himself to a national audience. Jay Kang of Grantland recently wrote about Harrison Barnes’s infatuation with public perception. If you don’t have time to read, Kang says that Barnes was too caught up in creating a brand name for himself to become the player he could have been.
I obviously want Noel to live up to the potential, but seeing him announce his signing intentions in front of a camera, in a TV studio instead of with his family, friends and teammates, is a hard image to shake. Here’s hoping he eases of the limelight’s allure and focuses on playing.