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Nerlens Noel Tells KSR He is Ignoring the National Criticism


Today I spoke with Nerlens Noel on the telephone to ask him about the national stories that have been swirling these last few days. You may remember that ESPN’s Ryen Russillo went on the Bill Simmons’ Podcast and spoke about those around Noel hurting his NBA Draft stock. According to Russillo, Noel has been surrounded by some people that aren’t looking out for his best interests and are hurting his stock with NBA teams. On my radio show this morning, Russillo joined us and noted that Noel had skipped out on meetings with agents and had seemed to pay no attention to the process of hiring an agent for the NBA Draft. He said this has caused concern for a number of NBA teams that worry that Noel is surrounding himself with people that will do him harm and ultimately has hurt his stock.

When I spoke with Noel today, he seemed genuinely surprised at the criticism. “I am not sure who people are talking about but right now there are only two people around me when I make decisions, my mom and Chris (his business manager).” When I asked him about the reports about blowing off agents he said, “honestly I just haven’t wanted to meet with a lot of agents because I have been worried about my rehab. One of the reasons I am so far ahead on my rehab is while other people have been wanting me to talk to agents, I have been down here working trying to get on the court.” Noel, who is spending his time in Birmingham rehabilitating said, “a lot of those guys have wanted to talk with me and I just haven’t felt like it was necessary. It is more important to get on the court that to talk to a lot of agent type people.” When I asked where Noel thought the source of these stories were coming from he chuckled and said, “probably people mad that I didn’t pick them to work with me.”

The two people Noel is referring to as his “entourage” are both people who have been around him a long time, of course his mother and “Chris” (whose last name I do not know), who has known the family for some time. He was adamant that while he isn’t sure the people being referred to as “bad dudes” by Russillo, unless they are Chris or his mother, they are playing no part in his decision process. While on the phone, all Noel wanted to focus on was basketball, even at one point saying with excitement, “Matt, you would be amazed how far I have come since starting this rehab.” You could hear in his voice the excitement of getting better, and it was a strong reminder how Nerlens is at heart, a kid who just loves playing basketball.

As I have said many times, Noel is one of the best kids off the court that I have seen at Kentucky. While his game needs work (specifically on the offensive end), his character does not and that is why these national reports have had me worried. Russillo and others have been clear that they have no concern about Noel the person, just those around him. Russillo says the source of the worries is from teams, not the agents shunned by Noel. But either way, Nerlens insists that is not an issue and that his inner circle of three people is all that matters to him and his career going forward. I hope that is the case for Noel, as he deserves a chance to showcase his high character in the league at the best pick possible, with no outside distractions.

Article written by Matt Jones

29 Comments for Nerlens Noel Tells KSR He is Ignoring the National Criticism

  1. BruceBruce
    8:25 pm June 18, 2013 Permalink


  2. tdogg40330
    8:31 pm June 18, 2013 Permalink

    when you are a really good person like Noel is, the media will do anything
    to find negative on ya. No worries, Noel has a good head on his shoulders.

  3. Duuuuuude
    8:32 pm June 18, 2013 Permalink

    When he was in high school, there were some who said that he had less than savory people giving him advice.

  4. KT
    8:39 pm June 18, 2013 Permalink

    I’m not worried, sounds to me like he just doesn’t like the spotlight or the business that goes along with being as good as he is. He’ll learn to adapt to it but may never love it.

    I still say he pissed off somebody because he didn’t meet with them and they fed the BS story to ESPN who (like Pete Thamel) ran with the story before doing any actual fact checking. The NBA agents/team managers kind of sound like a high school rumor mill the way it was described in the interview on the show.

  5. DesignatedDrinker
    8:40 pm June 18, 2013 Permalink

    Anyone who watched the kid this year knows how good he is and how big his heart is. People who aren’t around him spreading rumors, sad but not surprising. He will be a solid pro at the least and if teams pass on him, I’d bet he makes them pay for it down the road. #TeamNerlens

  6. VinDatuk
    8:41 pm June 18, 2013 Permalink

    #3 – Those stories originated by none other than our boy Pete Thameltoe. I’m sure he has some hangers on – which top 25 recruit doesn’t – but his actions off the court in Lexington is all the proof I need that he’s a good kid.

  7. Smileyblue
    8:42 pm June 18, 2013 Permalink

    Love this kid, hope everything works out for him.

  8. Card Fan
    8:44 pm June 18, 2013 Permalink

    He’s such a good kid that even I hated to see him go.

  9. CJ
    8:49 pm June 18, 2013 Permalink

    Let it be known!!

  10. El Pollo Loco
    8:57 pm June 18, 2013 Permalink

    5- Yes, people trying to send him to Syracuse. Too bad Noel found out about it & cut them out. They then became Thameltoe’s “sources” basically ratting themselves out in hopes of ruining him since they couldnt deliver wht they had said they could & had already gotten paid by Cuse people. They even had him “mis-enrolled” in classes that wouldn’t have fulfilled graduation requirements & not allowed him to re-classify, giving them more time to get “in” with him and steer to Cuse. Neither Noel nor his family were a part of that.

  11. El Pollo Loco
    8:57 pm June 18, 2013 Permalink

    ^either there was another post at 5 before or I meant 3

  12. Austin
    9:14 pm June 18, 2013 Permalink

    You have to take things floating around right before the NBA draft with a grain of salt. There is a lot of misinformation. A team could be floating bad info out in hopes of getting a guy to slip to them.

    Also, it isn’t like Noel has been spurning workouts. He couldn’t give a true workout. I think his explanation that he is just focused on his rehab should be commended. That should be his focus.

    I have zero questions about his character.

  13. UKBlue
    9:17 pm June 18, 2013 Permalink

    We should be use to this; whether it’s other agents trying to badmouth our kids or other coaches trying to badmouth Cal & UK, this comes with being UK.

  14. Luke
    9:22 pm June 18, 2013 Permalink

    “Chris” is Chris Driscoll, a former coach at Providence who was at the center of the Thamel/NCAA brouhaha last summer.

  15. Luke
    9:23 pm June 18, 2013 Permalink

    Also, I’m still unclear on why we keep acting like Nerlens doesn’t have an agent. According to Chris Driscoll and Yahoo Sports he now has two:–nerlens-noel-hires-agents-010312105.html

  16. tyson
    10:22 pm June 18, 2013 Permalink

    thanks for getting quotes directly from NN matt. good job.

  17. H.A. Milton
    10:47 pm June 18, 2013 Permalink

    Matt, you didn’t get any info directly from him about the only person, other than his mom, he refers to being a ‘handler’ when people are ‘concerned’ about his ‘handlers’…you guys talked a little right? do tell…

  18. #1 in bbal and fball
    10:50 pm June 18, 2013 Permalink

  19. #1 in bbal and fball
    10:50 pm June 18, 2013 Permalink

  20. FLOWE
    10:54 pm June 18, 2013 Permalink

    Matt,Great investigative journalism! Thanks for caring enough about these kids to dig deeper! Nerlens is awesome and is character and humility will take him far!#BBN

  21. WKYblue
    12:19 am June 19, 2013 Permalink

    I’d take Nerlons as a #1 pick any day. Big heart and a big motor. Great defensive player and will learn to score too. Good luck Nerlons in the draft. You were fun to watch this year.

  22. WKYblue
    12:41 am June 19, 2013 Permalink

    I really think that coach Cal shud be commended on the recruits that he goes after. Chris Walker wanted to come to UK n didn’t get an offer. He’s not eligible at UF now. He finds kids like Zylan Cheatham ( prolly misspelled)) n schools start swarming these kids. Check out how far Zylan has went up in the rankings. Not only are the recruits that Coach Cal have brought to KY are good basketball players but they are well spoken individuals. All of the incoming class are too. Coach Calapari not only gets the best players but he he is smart about who he picks. We won’t win it every year but we stand a better chance than anybody with Coach Cal recruiting.

  23. Whit
    12:59 am June 19, 2013 Permalink

    Somehow, I just read the Thamel article for the first time about Nerlens, etc, from March 2012 in the New York Times. Obviously most of it is a typical garbage Thamel-like witchhunt, but if half the stuff he wrote about Chris Driscoll is true (and it definitely appears to be) I hate that this guy is making decisions for Nerlens, and this will not end well at all. Even sicker, the Yahoo article about NN hiring two agents that #15 linked to above shows one of the agents is Frank Capatano, who is a big part of the Will Blalock/Chris Driscoll disaster. This is just bad all the way around, I hope everything goes alright for him, such a great kid and you can tell from the interview how hopeful/enthusiastic he is. I just hope that doesn’t include being naive and gullible.

  24. Luke
    1:57 am June 19, 2013 Permalink

    Agree #23. The two agents thing seemed odd to me and I just found the Thameltoe piece where he mentioned that Driscoll pushed Blalock into signing with Catapano against Blalock’s wishes. Andy Miller is clearly a top agent and I can’t imagine having two people as a co-agent is actually going to work (which one does a GM call to talk to and why are you paying the other one?).

    I really hope Nerlens is watching his back hereā€“he’s too good of a kid to have someone take advantage of him.

  25. Beezer
    8:50 am June 19, 2013 Permalink

    Chris Driscoll. The guys has bad news written all over him. Furthermore, the guy is absolutely 100% not qualified to be a business manager for a manager at Taco Bell. Let alone a multi-million dollar athlete. I’m really worried Noel is going to end up being a sad sad story in the future.

  26. Feesh
    8:51 am June 19, 2013 Permalink

    So he doesnt have time for a meeting with the top agencies in the business but he has time to talk to Matt Jones??? Ummm, OK.

  27. Thinkforasec
    9:14 am June 19, 2013 Permalink

    #26 Do you know the difference between a business meeting and a phone call? Obviously not

  28. Austin
    6:38 pm June 19, 2013 Permalink

    One thing I noticed. Simmons and Jalen Rose had a “job interview” with the draft prospects. Noel was not present. I wonder how much that goes into bashing the kid. I know that Rusiello was the one putting that out there more so than Simmons. If you notice the lady from Cleveland went and saw Nerlens at his rehab. I am sure Simmons wasn’t about to go to Birmingham for that interview. Between that and agents that Nerlens spurned, I think that is where some of the bad mojo is coming from. Also, that is part of the Kentucky effect. Thamel tried tearing him down before he ever got here.

    We all know he is a good kid. NBA teams know that too. There might be some frustration from teams trying to reach him, but I bet some of that is misinformation from teams hoping he slips. Also, teams might float that info in hopes of justifying their selection of someone else. That way when Nerlens turns into an All Star, they can point to his “character” concerns in justifying their taking a pass. He is a risk/reward pick. Some GM’s might not want to take that risk, so let’s bash him to further justify going with a safer pick. Whatever the reason, I am confident in saying Nerlens is a pretty good dude. If he doesn’t pan out, it will be more to do with his health than with any attitude/entourage concerns.

  29. BigBlue
    7:46 pm June 19, 2013 Permalink

    I think we know what type of kid Noel is from his time at UK. Any bad press he is getting is total BS. Do what you do Noel and don’t pay any attention to the detractors.