UK dodges a bullet; UCLA gets its guy 

April, 12, 2012
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- From a historical perspective, Wednesday’s announcements by No. 1 Nerlens Noel (Everett, Mass./Tilton) and No. 2 Shabazz Muhammad (Las Vegas/Bishop Gorman) made for one of the most significant recruiting events of the past 10 years.

From where I sat and the vantage point I had, the day itself was unique. It was clear that, especially with Noel, none of the coaching staffs knew where he would pick. Georgetown, Syracuse and Kentucky had no “inside information” regarding his decision. There was real anxiety in their offices as they watched him unveil the best flattop since Kid and Play’s run. John Calipari, the man with the golden touch on the recruiting trail, gave what sounded like a concession speech an hour before Noel made his decision and minutes before Muhammad committed to UCLA. In my mind, he was bracing Big Blue Nation for a pair of misses.

[+] EnlargeNoel Nerlens
Courtesy of Dave TelepThe way Nerlens Noel chose to announce for Kentucky is now part of recruiting lore.
In the end, Noel chose to follow in the footsteps of Anthony Davis. UK used Davis’ success to demonstrate a game plan for Noel. It was an easy pitch but one that had a potential hang-up. What if Noel wasn’t comfortable stepping into Davis’ shoes? An hour before the show, I asked Noel about each school’s pitch and he seemed more comfortable following Davis and more content than he’d ever been in our conversations regarding Davis and UK. Still, I wasn’t sure what he was going to do. Minutes before the show began, those who needed to know – producers, graphics folks, etc. – found out the closely-guarded secret.