Never Nerlens: Noel Saying No May Be Good

Don't worry, Rak and James' got this. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

A big name basketball recruit picked Kentucky. Not exactly a 'breaking news' situation. Still, with Syracuse having a legit shot at Nerlens Noel, a star on the rise, John Calipari trumping Jim Boeheim in anything stings. But I can't help but wonder if SU won last night by losing out on the Next Big Thing in college hoops.

(It's a mini-Tweetbag!)

Without Noel the sky isn't falling in Central New York. Jim Boeheim has lost out on a lot of big time recruits and the Hall of Fame coach still manages to win over 20 games a year and keep his teams in the top tier of the country.

@Air_Max83 - if Noel picks the Hoyas, SU frontcourt overall will still be better, deeper & more versatile than G'Town's."

Exactly. Now that tweet came in before Noel's decision, but it's not only correct, it takes a shot at Georgetown. In looking at the returning players, especially in the low post, and the incoming DaJuan Coleman and Jerami Grant, I think there will be plenty of talent at Syracuse to make up for anyone who didn't commit to the Orange.

Then there's this, @PeteThamelNYT -"What you won't hear about Nerlens Noel? He's no slam dunk to qualify and missing 3 days of school to be at Jordan game."

Actually, that was a common theme on Twitter during the way over the top ESPNU 'selection show' Wednesday.

@mleagle88 - "Been hearing he might not qualify academically."

That's certainly interesting, especially when you remember Pete Thamel's article on the people close to Noel. Now, I'm certainly not rooting or hoping for Noel to have any trouble at Kentucky, or anywhere else for that matter. I hope he can live up to the hype and then help out an NBA team soon (possibly the Knicks?).

But I can't stop thinking, as I have wrote in the past, Syracuse missing out on Noel may have been more of a blessing in disguise.

A blessing in disguise because Noel may have baggage and because last night's 'show' hoisted a lot of pressure onto a teenager who's still in high school.

@PJASchultz - "I HATE this silly show, hate the hype (for unproven talent), and really hate the deification of 17yo kids."

Did Noel, and fellow recruit Shabazz Muhammad, really need almost two hours on ESPNU's air to make their decisions? Of course other people, people who should know better, were the ones who set up the show. A show that had the two teens walk the 'red' carpet, talk about themselves ,and watch highlights of themselves. And the whole logo in the hair? The NBA All-Star game introductions are less self-serving than Wednesday's 'event.'

It all reminds me, on a lesser level, of when Beano Cook once said incoming Notre Dame quarterback Ron Powlus would win the Heisman Trophy four times, all before the kid's first practice. Powlus didn't exactly lead the Fighting Irish to glory like predicted, batting zero in Heismans. Not living up to the hype thrown on him by Cook.

In that case though, it was Cook who threw Powlus under the national spotlight bus. With Noel it's his handlers and ESPN propping up a teenager as The Man.

Again, I hope Noel can play to his best, but as Syracuse fans we've seen players have trouble living up to hype. Fab Melo took an entire year to adapt to life in college (besides the whole schoolwork thing). Paul Harris had the unfortunate timing being a big-time recruit a couple years after Carmelo Anthony came in and made every SU fans dreams come true.

Fab and Paul had issues with Syracuse hype, Noel, thanks to his people surrounding him, has the college basketball world on his teenage shoulders. That doesn't mean he'll fail or wash out of basketball. It means that Noel will likely have to be Anthony Davis, but better.

Noel could end up doing just that. Dominating like Davis and winning a title, going on to the NBA and becoming the star everyone has said he'll be. But if Noel struggles with school, or if he takes time to adjust and adapt to college basketball, the hype machine will eat him up.

A loss in the recruiting game Wednesday could, eventually, turn out to be a win for Syracuse.

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