As of now, we still don’t know if Nerlens Noel’s knee injury is as bad as it looks. Noel exited the O’Connell Dome last night via a wheelchair and was taken to Shands Hospital in Gainesville for testing. No results were released and Noel did board the team flight with the rest of his team and headed back to Lexington. And as of now, that is all that we know.
I was at the game in Gainesville and it was apparent that this was a serious injury almost immediately. Noel was, doing what he does best, and was impacting the play defensively. Kentucky was making a run around the 8:00 mark when Archie Goodwin missed a three pointer and Mike Rosario sprinted down the court with the ball for an apparent easy Gator lay-up. Noel pursued on the play and like he has done so many times this season, kept points from the opposing teams total with a block of the shot.
Noel appeared to land awkwardly and then crashed into the padded barrier covering the basket and then collapsed into a heap on the ground clutching his knee. From the other end of the court, I could tell that it was bad, and even though I knew it was bad, nothing prepared me for seeing the play close up and hearing Noel’s anguished screams. I have to admit, I got sick to my stomach after watching this for the first time.
The rest of that game really did not matter. Even though the game was still in question, it was secondary as I furiously updated twitter on my phone looking for some news … any news of Noels’s injury. I kept watching the UK locker room entrance to my left, hoping for the door to open and for Noel to bounce out, yet he never did. The scene at the post game press conference was surreal as well. The usual post game chatter and small talk was gone as the veteran UK scribes kept their eyes down and typed furiously on their laptops and tablets. After several agonizing moments of waiting for John Calipari to take the podium, Kyle Wiltjer and Julius Mays entered the room and somberly took their places in front of the microphones.
As you can see, what the players said about the game really did not matter. They seemed on autopilot as they answered the reporters questions but their emotions and body language made the point evident that they were concerned about their fallen comrade:
Several minutes passed as the press room waited for John Calipari. I have never heard a room full of reporters be so quiet. After several minutes, John Calipari entered the room and his body language approaching the podium spoke volumes. Even Calipari seemed to be going through the press conference motions, asking for a stat sheet and then speaking to himself in general that he may not even look at it. Always the consummate pro, Calipari seemed to put his worries aside when he took the mic, but you could still sense his concern and feel his pain when he said he was physically sick for Noel.