Incoming 6’10” freshman phenom Nerlens Noel has been on the NCAA hotseat since the rumors started floating around he was committing to the Kentucky Wildcats. First, it was his grades. Noel completed his classes and got the grades required to attend Kentucky this season. The NCAA has already cleared Noel academically. However, his amateur status is still in doubt. Noel is allowed to practice and be with the team even though he is still being investigated.
If you have followed any of the Nerlens Noel coverage since before he signed his papers to attend UK, you know what I’m about to say next. The NCAA has suspicions about some of Noel’s unofficial recruiting visits. Whether he received any money to make those visits. If Nerlens happened to receive any kind of benefits, his amatuer status would be in effect null and void.
Kentucky fans have seen this scenario played out in 2010 with the recruitment of Enes Kanter. Kanter’s background was far different due to the fact he played in Europe and the rules are just different over there. After the NCAA had ruled on Kanter’s situation, they felt he did receive benefits and forced him to ride the pine for the whole season. Could that really happen to Nerlens Noel?
The NCAA has a 45-day window to make the ruling on Nerlens Noel to determine if he is still an “amateur” by rule. Those days have started counting down, and the NCAA could have a ruling by next week. Time will only tell if the future of Noel at Kentucky will be directly impacted.
Since the NCAA has begun the investigations, many ‘Cat fans have slammed the online message boards claiming a double standard. The ‘Cats already had one NCAA ruling not in their favor with Enes Kanter. Other recent cases have Kentucky fans scratching their heads. For example, let’s start off with former Kansas guard Josh Selby. Selby was once a Tennessee signee before the debacle with former head coach Bruce Pearl. After finally landing at Kansas, Selby was investigated by the NCAA for receiving improper benefits. After the NCAA concluded Selby had received such benefits, he was not banned from playing amatuer basketball. The NCAA suspended Selby a few games and allowed him to pay back all the money he received, and that was the end of it. The NCAA even allowed Selby to use scholarship money gave to him by Kansas to pay off his debts. So in a sense, Kansas “bought” his services. Let’s go into the present with the recent case of former Duke player Lance Thomas. Thomas was sued by a New York jeweler for an alleged $67,800 credit given to the Blue Devil. While the details are shaky, the story develops like this. Thomas walked into a New York jeweler, put down $30,000 payment on some bling, and the jeweler credited him with $70,000 more. Where did the $30,000 come from? Why did the jeweler allow the $70,000 more? Was this deal made on the premise that Thomas would enter the NBA? All those questions still remain to be answered. The latest news on the case has Thomas and Duke walking away unscathed from the incident. Where does a college kid get $30,000 for bling? I mean, seriously?
Another thing about the NCAA’s rulings that has ‘Cats fans fired up is the apparent cold shoulder to other programs’ wrongdoings. The UNC academic scandal involving former basketball/football player Julius Peppers hasn’t been in the news in weeks. The last article of news on a google search about Lance Thomas’ bling was dated nine days ago. What about the recruitment of Shabazz Muhammad? Is he eligible yet? All this other negative publicity floating around, and the mention of someone associated with Kentucky is slandered front page news.
The bottomline is, this situation with Nerlens Noel will not go away until he is cleared in all matters by the NCAA. Will this be decided before Big Blue Madness? Probably not. Will this team have to adjust the same way the 2010 team had to do? WIth a team already thin on depth, permanently removing the eventual starting center could pose a huge problem in Lexington.
Filed Under: Basketball
About the Author: Writer for StraitCats.com, lifelong UK fan, college sports enthusiast. Twitter: BrianLewis_SP