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.