It always seemed pretty unlikely that Kentucky forward (and top-ranked incoming player in the class of 2012) Nerlens Noel wouldn’t be eligible to play in his upcoming freshman season at UK. On Wednesday, Noel made it official, telling CBS’s Jeff Goodman that UK’s compliance director called and “woke me up” with the official good news:
“Sandy Bell called me and woke me up,” Noel said. “She told me I was good to go. I knew I did it, but I was still nervous waiting on the official word.”
There was some concern that Noel might not make it academically after deciding to return to his original graduating class of 2012. He took two classes at Everett High in July and received an A in English and a B-plus in history.
“I needed two B’s,” Noel said. “I never studied that hard in my life.”
Kentucky athletics director DeWayne Peevy couldn’t officially “confirm or deny initial eligibility for student-athletes,” per the Louisville Courier-Journal, but he did offer this much: "We expect him here when school starts on Aug. 22.”
Which is not to say there weren’t potential hiccups in Noel’s eligibility situation. In early May, the New York Times’ Pete Thamel reported that the NCAA had sent two members of its encforcement staff to Massachusetts to check in with Noel’s original high school (Everett High School in Everett, Mass.), where they discussed, according to Everett principal Louis Baldi, “concerns we had as adults” for Noel. The NCAA inquiry was interested in Noel’s relationship with former Providence assistant Chris Driscoll, who was barred from campus at the Tilton School, a New Hampshire boarding school where Noel spent his junior and senior years. The NCAA staffers also looked into a relationship between Noel and Errol Randolph, a former Everett substitute teacher and Noel adviser whose LinkedIn page linked to ASM Sports, a prominent basketball agency.
None of these facts were particularly damning. More than anything, Noel’s appeared to be a rather standard case of NCAA eligibility diligence, not unlike what most players -- especially high-profile players -- endure before they are allowed to begin summer work at their new campus destinations.
In the end, Noel’s grades were all that held him back. Now that he’s studied hard and gotten his credits accounted (and his GPA commensurately boosted), he can begin what is almost certain to be a sterling and short career at Kentucky. Easy enough.