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Nerlens Noel redefines one and done: I blame the rules

Nerlens Noel

I’ve written a lot about Nerlens Noel on this site. In fact, I spoke about him in the video that I posted just yesterday (a video made long before his injury…). You know why I’ve talked / written about him so much?

Because I love the kid.

It’s possible, you know. To really admire a player on the team of a hated rival. Of course, it’s possible to hate such a player, too. (For more on that, Google the words Marshall Henderson. Followed by is an asshat.) It all depends on the individual, I suppose.

Nerlens Noel

But from everything I’ve been able to glean about Nerlens, he seems like a good dude. And the talent the guy possesses goes without saying. I try to avoid using the word never when describing athletes not named Michael Jordan or LeBron James, but with Nerlens, I just can’t help myself.

Because I’ve never seen a dude with such explosive hops. It’s a joke how quickly that kid can get up and down. How smoothly he does it. How he never breaks the plane of perfect verticality. (Not a word, but still, stay with me…) Nerlens Noel doesn’t just alter an opposing team’s shots. He alters their entire game plan. And even then, such alterations aren’t nearly enough to stop him from getting the five swats per game he averages with seeming ease.

Yeah, y’all. I like Nerlens Noel. Kid’s a hard worker. A team player. A guy who’d rather dominate the paint than the headlines. A dude who was getting better and better with each game. Then, suddenly, the guy writhing around on the floor in pain leaving Big Blue far bluer than before, and leaving the rest of us to consider “one-and-done” in a very different and morbid light.

Oh, I know. People hate the one-and-done rule. And people dislike John Calipari for exploiting it. But not me. (I dislike Calipari for being so cheesy.) I mean, hell, it isn’t Guido’s Calipari’s fault. It’s the NBA’s fault. It’s their rule.

All Cal’s done is work within the parameters of that rule. Which is how he built a team that dominated for a year, then POOF, vanished into thin air before wafting its way toward the NBA draft. Last year, just days after cutting down the nets, all five Wildcat starters — freshmen Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Marquis Teague, along with sophomores Terrence Jones and Doron Lamb — left Big Blue for the even bluer skies of the NBA. And you get the sense that Davis, Kidd-Gilchrist and Teague probably would have made the jump right from high school had they been allowed.

Many argue that college basketball is becoming less entertaining because of the one-and-done rule. But I would beg to differ. Because I find players like Anthony Davis and Nerlens Noel to be wildly entertaining. But the college game is certainly less memorable because of it. I mean, hell, it’s hard to recall players’ names who only make headlines for a whopping ten (non football-dominated) weeks before bugging out to become professional ballers.

Simply put, the days of lasting memories of great NCAA basketball teams who put together sick-ass runs are over. Because there are no such teams now. No such runs. These days, folks come, give it a go, then go about their merry way. Whether they’re Anthony Davis and win a National Championship or Tobias Harris and jump off a sinking ship.

That’s why big time college basketball isn’t big time anymore. Because Commissioner Stern and company decided that it’d be in a kid’s best interest to go to school for a year before going pro. Rule are funny things, though. They have to be enforced for a while before one can see the many unintended consequences thereof. And the rule that was intended to help the college basketball student athlete has hurt the team — even the great ones. Because legacies now are like shooting starts. Beautiful, but gone in an instant.

And awfully hard to recall.

There’s a similar rule in college football, but at least that one makes kids stick around for three years, as opposed to one. Which means you can enjoy the same cast of players for a while in NCAA football. Which enables teams to establish legacies. Ones that are not only easy to remember, but damn near impossible to forget. So, if you’re asking me, I prefer the three-year rule in NCAA football to the one-and-done rule of college hoops. Primarily because it hasn’t hurt the sport.

But it sure has hurt the individual. And we were all reminded of that on October 27 when we held our breath and prayed for number 21. Marcus Lattimore — another player whom, like Nerlens Noel, I really admire despite the color of his jersey.

Which, of course, is why there’s all the speculation on whether or not Lattimore’s teammate, Jedeveon Clowney, will “play” this upcoming year. Given that most believe he’d be the top pick of this year’s NFL draft were he allowed to enter it, what’s the kid got to play for? Does he ball out till the Gamecocks lose a game or two, then, with an SEC title out of reach, shut ‘er down? That’s what many believe Justin Hunter did, you know.

What do you think Marcus Lattimore’s advice would be?

Knowing what little I know of Jedeveon, I bet he’ll play his guts out next year. And knowing what little I know of Marcus Lattimore, I’m guessing he has an incredible attitude about what’s happened to him. He’s probably never even given it a second thought — too busy, instead, preparing himself for the NFL career he’s certain that still awaits. And I’m hoping that’s the case with Nerlens Noel, too. I hope he hits the shit out of his rehab and gets ready for a long, prosperous career in the NBA.

Yeah, man. I pray to God that neither of these young men get cheated out of the millions they were both so clearly destined to earn were it not for the short-sighted rules imposed upon them.

Which is why I hate both those rules. Yes, the restrictions on NCAA football players impact the football programs less, which, to me at least, makes that rule more tolerable than its one-and-done basketball counterpart. But in both cases, the players are the ones who bear the brunt. The ones who are forced to wait for their millions, even while the NCAA refuses to share a single red cent of the millions they make off of them during that wait.

You know. Because you can’t pay them. They’re amateurs.

Of course they are, assholes. You’re making them remain as such. Only unlike most amateurs, they sure do have a lot to lose.

And last night Nerlens Noel, like Marcus Lattimore before him, reminded us of exactly that.

Lose the rules. Let the kids go pro if they want. Straight from high school. Yes. I know that zillions will chase the money too soon. And that this will likely have some type of unintended and adverse effect on college sports, too. Because, again, it takes a while for the nuances of a rule to reveal themselves.

But one thing’s for sure. Even if allowing kids to go pro straight from high school did have unintended and adverse consequences, those consequences couldn’t possibly be as hard to witness as the injuries to Marcus Lattimore and Nerlens Noel were.

Because both those made me sick, y’all.

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