“Then you’ve got Georgetown, and I really just like everything about them.”
Nerlens Noel, the top high school recruit in the country, summed up the Hoyas in a blog post just one day before his decision on Wednesday evening. Ultimately, though, the six-foot-ten Massachusetts native opted for Kentucky over Georgetown and Syracuse. He revealed his decision with the Kentucky logo shaved into the back of his signature flattop, disappointing Hoya fans who desperately wanted him on the Hilltop next fall.
Instead, Noel will replace Kentucky freshman Anthony Davis in the middle of the paint, as the Wildcats look to defend their national championship next season. The move marks the latest rejection from high-profile big men for the Hoyas, as Andre Drummond and Rakeem Christmas opted for Big East rivals Connecticut and Syracuse, respectively, over Georgetown last season.
Throughout the day yesterday, Hoya fans’ tempered expectations grew slightly, as reports from college basketball analysts marked John Thompson III’s team as serious contenders for Noel’s services, especially after a positive visit to campus on Selection Sunday.
Despite the loss, Georgetown still remains deep, but untested in the paint. Rising junior Nate Lubick will have the most experience, and redshirt sophomore Moses Ayegba and sophomore Mikael Hopkins will be expected to carry a bulk of minutes in place of graduating senior Henry Sims. Unproven sophomore Tyler Adams still has an uncertain bill of health, while sophomores Otto Porter and Greg Whittington may play up front for stretches if Thompson decides to use smaller lineups. For the Hoyas, it marks a similar scenario to last season, where Sims stepped up to fill a significant void in the paint.
But the recruiting season is only getting underway. Though today was technically National Signing Day for high school basketball prospects, the Hoyas remain on the shortlists for a number of recruits, with Devonta Pollard and Robert Upshaw foremost among them.
Pollard, a six-foot-seven wing out of Mississippi, is down to Georgetown, Missouri, Texas, and Alabama. It was expected that a Noel commitment would increase Georgetown’s chances of landing Pollard, but the Hoyas still remain major players. Pollard is expected to make his decision shortly after visiting the Hilltop this weekend.
Upshaw, meanwhile, is relatively raw, but has undeniable size. The seven-footer de-committed from Kansas State after Coach Frank Martin left the program, and he now has the Hoyas alongside Louisville and hometown Fresno State on his shortlist.
As it stands now, though, the Hoyas have a strong recruiting class coming in to fill holes. D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera, a combo guard out of the venerable Oak Hill Academy, should step in for senior guard Jason Clark. Joining him in the Class of 2012 is Brandon Bolden, an athletic big man who has been committed since October 2010. His game is somewhat similar to Hopkins’s.
Still, a game-changing shot blocker in the middle would have been a recruiting coup for the Hoyas. But the Hoyas will retain their newfound defensive vigor, led by Porter and Whittington – not a bad consolation prize.