- Adam Finkelstein
It was a big weekend for Syracuse as they scored a convincing win over UConn on Saturday with Nerlens Noel (Everett, Mass./Tilton), Tyler Ennis (Brampton, Ontario/DeMatha Catholic) and Goodluck Okonoboh (Boston, Mass./Tilton) all on campus to check out the action.
Syracuse already owns the 15th ranked recruiting class in the country with DaJuan Coleman (Dewitt, N.J./Jamesville Dewitt) and Jerami Grant (Hyattsville, Md./DeMatha Catholic) and obviously the potential addition of Noel would propel them towards the top of the list, while also ensuring one of the top incoming frontcourts in all of college basketball.
I’ve been a little surprised in the last week to hear so many people question whether or not Noel and Coleman could potentially play together. To me the answer is easy. Yes. But the better question is whether or not Noel’s role would be exactly what he anticipates.
Offensively, it’s an easy fit. Coleman is a space-eating 5-man who makes his living on the low block while the evolution of Noel’s offensive game has him playing more facing the basket than with his back to it. Noel's also become very effective going off the dribble and is also a terrific passer, which would give Syracuse all types of opportunities for high-low action, whether it be with Coleman or an incumbent big man like Fab Melo or Rakeem Christmas.
Defensively, this should be an even easier answer, but there is a bit of a glitch. Noel has to be drooling about what his shot-blocking numbers could be like parked in front of the rim in Syracuse’s 2-3 zone, which is an almost identical role to the one he currently plays at Tilton. However, it remains to be seen whether or not that would be his actual position within the Orange defense.
Putting Noel in the middle of the zone would mean sliding Coleman or Melo over to one of the forward spots, and given how aggressive those defenders come out to contest the perimeter for Syracuse, I’m not sure that’s a job that either of the less-mobile centers could consistently cover.
Noel, on the other hand, would thrive in such a role. He’s incredibly agile and quick laterally for his size and has no problems containing smaller players away from the basket. The only caveat is that pulls him away from the rim a little bit and consequently doesn’t give his shot-blocking numbers the same potential.
Ultimately, this may be a non-issue when it comes to Noel’s decision making process because a move to Syracuse would still enable him to show the versatility of his defensive skills and allow him to block a whole lot of shots -- whether he was playing the middle or the wing. And while there are undoubtedly other factors that will go into his decision making process, when you’re talking about a potential one-and-done prospect, his immediate role is always an interesting question.