*all stats are before the Texas A&M game Saturday
Since Nerlens Noel took off his hood on ESPN and revealed the “UK” shaved into the back of his head he has faced constant comparisons to fellow big man, Anthony Davis. Davis is beloved by UK fans and for good reason- he was part of the well-loved national title team, holds numerous records not only for UK but in the SEC and nation as well, was the player of the year, represented the USA and brought home a gold medal, went number one in the NBA draft and he has a really awesome unibrow- what’s not to love?
I really think the Nerlens vs Anthony comparison is very unfair. I’ve thought so since the beginning. I recall Calipari making a comment about this as well, somewhere along the lines of “they are two different guys on two different teams” which is something to consider when comparing.
I remember the beginning of basketball season I heard so many students say “Nerlens sucks” or “he’s no Anthony”. True that Nerlens is not Anthony- he has a way cooler haircut, but Nerlens Noel has never “sucked”. The part of the NN/AD debate that irks me the most is the fact that people like to use the team record as an “example” of why Nerlens is not as good as Anthony. That is absolutely unfair and unreasonable.
Last year’s basketball team was a truly amazing team to watch. They were incredibly selfless and just loved the game, each other and would put winning over any individual statistic. That’s what worked for them- they all had the will to win. When you’re surrounded with talent it automatically makes you look better and improves your game. Anthony was surrounded with a team full of driven, hungry players. They gave each other looks and worked together, playing whole-heartedly as a team.
This year’s team doesn’t lack talent at all, however last year’s team was a once in a decade team- it’s unfair to compare the two. Same with Davis, he was a once in a decade; maybe even generation, player and we happened to land a similar caliber player again this year. Rather than appreciating Nerlens Noel for the player he is, we are comparing him to a different player on a whole different team.
However, if you really want to compare the two players according to the stats they’re really quite similar. After 20 games last season Anthony Davis was averaging 13.7 points, 10.3 rebounds, 0.9 assists, 1 turnover, 4.7 blocks, 1.6 steals and 30.6 minutes. After 20 games (every game aside from Saturday’s A&M game) Nerlens averages 10.2 points, 9.3 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 1.9 turnovers, 4.8 blocks, 2.4 steals and 32 minutes. This means that Nerlens’s block and steal average has actually surpassed Anthony Davis.
To further compare the two right now Nerlens is in second to Anthony Davis in both UK freshman-single season blocks and UK single-season blocks with 95. Anthony Davis had 186 total last season. In UK freshman single-season steals Anthony Davis is 3rd on the list with 54 and Nerlens is tied with Keith Bogans at 5th with 47. Nerlens also has had the most blocks in any game under Calipari with 12 at Ole Miss. He shares the #2 spot with Anthony Davis at 8.
Nerlens currently ranks second in the nation for blocked shots, 16th in steals and 32nd in rebounds. He is first in the SEC for blocks, tied for first in defensive rebounds, second in rebounds, tied for second in steals and 10th for offensive rebounds. He is also on the Wayman Tisdale midseason Watch list, the Naismith preseason watch list, preseason SEC POY candidate, has been SEC freshman of the week twice, and ESPN’s defensive player of the month for December.
I’m not saying either player is better than the other, but I will say that a better team surrounded Anthony. Either way, it’s undeniable that Nerlens Noel is having a fantastic season. He keeps reiterating in media that while he would like to break Anthony’s records, he is focused on winning as a team first. Anthony had the opportunity to play an optimal number of games to set his records. Depending on how deep this Kentucky squad goes in the tournament Nerlens could break Davis’s records, but either way he is on track to get dangerously close.
I think Nerlens has a great attitude and a will to win and an awesome court presence. So before we make comparisons, lets all appreciate what a special player he is and hope he sticks around for more because I’m sure like me, the rest of BBN loves to watch this guy play.