Since the beginning of the Calipari era, we’ve welcomed the best of the best into Lexington. Cal’s first team showcased the vast difference between “Cal recruits” and the rest of the pack. Cal recruits are of course, extremely talented, but they also carry themselves with a certain kind of confidence…dare I say it, swagger. However, Cal is a master at making sure that confidence never tips over the line to cockiness by demanding selflessness and a team-first attitude. Although the dribble-drive offense may be his calling card, Cal’s lone National Championship was won with hard-nosed, smothering defense, which is why the addition of Nerlens Noel vaulted our hopes for a repeat next season.
It’s safe to say that most of us loved Nerlens from that very first mix-tape. While his shot-blocking skills and ability to alter a game defensively are impressive, but that high-top fade…oh, that high-top fade. Let the Kid n’ Play nostalgia wash over us. Nerlens is the KSR of recruits: bringing game in the most ridiculous manner possible. The minute the ESPNU cameras showed Nerlens in that black hoodie, his flat top filling that hood to the very last inch, you could tell he was going to be a star in college basketball. John Wall had the dance; Jorts had his, well, jorts; Anthony Davis had the brow; and now, Nerlens has the fade.
Even better was the way in which Nerlens revealed his decision. Knowing it was his trademark, Nerlens wanted to brand himself with his future school’s logo. Call me biased, but that beats putting on a hat any day. Most of the talk on Twitter claimed he was headed to Georgetown, but 22,000 of us on the live blog held on to a thread of hope, spun from months of momentum for the Cats. I’ll admit it: I was absolutely shocked when Nerlens spun around and the camera zoomed in on those glorious interlocking letters. It was a dramatic move for a dramatic player and his new dramatic fan base. By now, Nerlens is well aware of the Big Blue Nation’s passion, and that reveal was a tip of the hat to us (or, a tip of the flat top, if you will?). I haven’t been that excited since…oh, a week and a half ago?
Maybe it’s because Nerlens helped clinch Cal’s fourth number one class in a row, maybe it’s because this kid just looks like fun, or maybe it’s because we already know how well Cal’s teams do with a defensive stalwart like Noel, but next year just got even brighter. He’ll have to listen to the comparisons for at least the next year, but you can’t ignore the similarities between Noel and Davis’ play. Those freakishly long arms, that possessive presence around the basket…these guys don’t need offense to make an impact on a game. The points are just the icing on the cake.
Welcome to the fam, Nerlens.