Kentucky Wildcats Basketball: It's time to start recognizing Nerlens Noel for his Greatness

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Jan 29, 2013; Memphis, TN, USA; Mississippi Rebels forward Murphy Holloway (31) goes up for a dunk and is guarded by Kentucky Wildcats forward Nerlens Noel (3) during the game at the Tad Smith Coliseum. Kentucky Wildcats defeated the Mississippi Rebels 87-74. Mandatory Credit: Spruce Derden–USA TODAY Sports

I think people are finished comparing Nerlens Noel to Anthony Davis. True, he doesn’t have AD’s offensive skills but he is as good or even better on defense. Don’t believe me? Noel just eclipsed Davis’ block total from at this point last season; Davis had 93 and Noel currently has 94. Noel’s 12 blocks against Ole Miss on Tuesday night, six of them coming when he was battling four fouls, was the stuff of legend and it was unthinkable what he accomplished.

Deadspin.com has two awesome gifs of Nerlens’ two best blocks of the night and detail how he won the game for Kentucky without scoring a field goal.

Even his opponent at Ole Miss could not believe what he saw:

It was just unreal to me,” said a stunned Holloway afterward. “He’s the best shot blocker to ever play the game. He changed the game. He doesn’t have to score points. He was changing the whole game. He’s the best shot blocker I’ve ever played against.”

Even better than UK’s own Anthony Davis, who set an NCAA freshman record for blocks last season en route to National Player of the Year honors and the No. 1 spot in the NBA draft?

“Yes,” Holloway said. “Look at the stats. Twelve. He had 12 blocks tonight? Yeah, to me, I just think he is better.”

What sets Noel apart from other shot blockers, not just Davis, is his uncanny quickness off the floor and his ability to block his man face to face, even on dunks.

Noel isn’t just in the conversation for being good any longer, he’s great. He shuts down the middle of the court and teams  fear taking the ball to the rim.

Jan 26, 2013; Lexington, KY, USA; Kentucky Wildcats forward Nerlens Noel (3) during the game against the LSU Tigers in the second half at Rupp Arena. Kentucky defeated LSU 75-70. Mandatory Credit: Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

Chad Ford is ESPN’s NBA Draft guru (their basketball answer for Mel Kiper, Jr.) and he has been so impressed with Noel’s defensive dominance so far in the SEC that he has the Kentucky center as the #1 overall draft pick in 2013:

Noel is still a placeholder here for the top pick. Noel isn’t close to wrapping up the top spot and will probably land only here if a team with a need for shot-blocking in the middle, like the Cavaliers, for example, lands the No. 1 pick. Noel is still trying to shrug off the perception that his freshman season is a disappointment. I think he’s been exactly who he was advertised to be — a super-athletic defender with a very raw offensive game. He has played four times since the last Big Board update and totaled more blocks (32) and rebounds (37) than points (30). While his offense is still a work in progress, he continues to get better and better on the defensive end of the floor.

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