You might have heard in his latest single last night, featuring Wes Grams, that Nerlens is considering coming back to Kentucky for his sophomore year, ala Harrison Barnes, Jared Sullinger, Terrence Jones, and Doron Lamb. There is absolutely zero question that having Noel on next year’s team would be an invaluable asset, but it’s prudent not to get excited just yet. I hate to channel my inner Jerry Tipton, but here are three reasons to cool your jets over the whole “Nerlens might come back” thing. It’s for your own good, I promise.
1) 2014 NBA Draft is just too strong
If you haven’t noticed, the overall talent level in college basketball is a little down this year. Guys like Ben McLemore are taking over draft boards, while pre-season favorites like Cody Zeller and Shabazz Muhammad are no longer getting serious consideration for number one picks. Nerlens, even with his ACL injury, is projected top-three on Chad Ford’s draft board. There is simply a dearth of hyper-talented athletes playing the game right now. Next year’s class, though, is unbelievable. With guys like Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, the Harrisons, Aaron Gordon, and Julius Randle (along with a ton of others), 2014 is absolutely stacked. It’s almost a given that Wiggins will go number one next year. And should Nerlens stay, he’d have to compete with all those other guys, along with this year’s holdovers, for a second or third spot. He could certainly do it, but it’d be a lot more work to go number three next year than it would this year.
2) Remember MKG?
We all love MKG, so it was no surprise when BBN collectively freaked out after he announced via twitter that he would be “graduating from UK.” Could he stay four years? Could he at least stay two? Of course, he opted to enter the draft, and was selected second overall behind Anthony Davis. Some folks were a little upset, maybe felt a little betrayed, but ultimately it was 100% the right decision. A lot of kids get caught up in the moment, feel passionately about the University and the fanbase, and want to make everybody happy. Then they realize that coming back is not always the smart move. No hard feelings. We understand. But this seems like an all-too-familiar scenario with Nerlens. If you’ve been there before, act like it; and we’ve been here before.
3) Under-promise, over-deliver
After Nerlens got hurt, and before we knew the severity, I had a couple people ask me what I thought would happen. The first thing I told them was “I don’t freaking know, he’s not on my speed dial.” The second thing I said was that it was best to prepare yourself emotionally for his career at UK to be over. I still maintain that. Even if I thought he would come back, it’s silly to start relying on something that’s still so much up in the air. The first rule of strategy is “Never start a land war in Asia,” but the second is “under-promise, over-deliver.” It’s always best to temper expectations, and be pleasantly surprised, than to get your hopes up, and have them dashed. So while I’ll admit that there is a chance that Nerlens will come back, even if that chance were fifty-fifty (which it’s not), it’s a good idea to move on from expecting to have another year of Nerlens in Blue.
This year has so much going on, with Bubble Watch 2013, the decade’s most important SEC Tournament, and Rand Paul’s filibuster, that speculation on Nerlens’ future is something best saved until after the season is over. When that happens, hopefully later than sooner, we’ll have much better perspective on the big guy’s ultimate destination. Until then, enjoy the season, and don’t get your hopes up. It’s for the best.