With the season that Anthony Davis had this past year it’s beyond fair to put him in the discussion for one of the greatest Kentucky Wildcats ever. The awards say so. He’s a national champion, the national player of the year, and the presumed number one pick in the 2012 NBA Draft. He has more accomplishments in one year than some of the greatest NCAA players had in a four year career. But with all of those accomplishments comes a quick departure to the NBA, as well as a gaping hole left in the middle of Kentucky’s starting lineup just one year after. In comes the newest Wildcat big man, Nerlens Noel, and the unfair pressures of filling the void of Anthony Davis’ mystique. Yes, Noel is one of the best shot blocking prospects to come out of high school in the past ten years. He’s also an outstanding athlete and an underrated ball handler, but let’s be real he’s no Anthony Davis, and he shouldn’t be expected to be.
With being the next talented big man coming to Kentucky directly after Davis’ magical season the comparisons were going to come for Noel. They had to. Soon after committing to playing for the Cats the questions came comparing the two players and Noel kind of shied away from the whole thing.
“He’s a great player. I’ve got respect for him,” Noel said, “but at the end of the day, he’s his own player and I’m my own player. We’re different people. I do understand we play similar, though.”
On the other side of the spectrum some are expecting Noel to be as impactful as Davis, if not more. “He’s way better than Anthony Davis. He’s way better than he was in high school,” said UNC commit Brice Johnson. “He just needs to work on his offensive game a little bit more, because he really doesn’t score like that. But he’s working on it. He’s getting a little better.”
Those are strong words coming from Johnson, a fellow teammate of Noel at yesterday’s Jordan Brand Classic. The performances of Davis and Noel in their respective Jordan Brand Classic games don’t reiterate what Johnson is saying. Davis was named Co-MVP of the 2011 game with a 29 point, 11 rebound, and 4 block stat line. Noel, who got into early foul trouble in yesterday’s game, only contributed 4 points, 5 rebounds, and 3 blocks in a 99-95 East team loss.
Of course the Jordan Brand Classic is not going to be an exact representation of how a players collegiate career and beyond will play out. After all Renardo Sidney was the 2009 MVP. Noel should just be able to start his own path in the blue and white and not be asked to continue Davis’. There is no doubt that Noel has the ability to be a great player but it might not be the same type of great that Davis was. As a fan base I don’t think we should put these unfair expectations on this young kid and realize there won’t probably another Anthony Davis type talent for a long, long time. But even if Noel is shy about living up to individual accomplishments of Davis, he certainly isn’t shy about wanting to win a ninth National Championship for Kentucky.
“I’m looking to come in and make my own name at Kentucky,” Noel said of the Davis comparisons. ” (And) Hopefully I’ll get a ring just like him!”