It is not often that you are eating dumplings in Chinatown at 3 a.m. on a Friday morning and learn that Kosta Koufos has been traded, but that true story only just added to the bizzarro nature of the 2013 Draft — the craziest draft night I have ever witnessed in more than 20 years of covering them.
In sports, and especially life, it’s not uncommon to begin with one problem and discover another. The hits just keep coming for the Minnesota Timberwolves, who keep discovering problem after problem in this trying season.
What was supposed to be the season that saw the T-Wolves return to the playoffs has been nothing short of a nightmare. At 23-43 and at the bottom of the Western Conference, the T-Wolves faithful surely wishes they could hit the reset button on this season.
It is entirely possible that a decision announced this past week at a small boarding school in New Hampshire will have a profound impact on the 2013 NBA Draft.
Nerlens Noel, a 6-foot-10 shot-blocker who has been compared to Bill Russell and Anthony Davis, announced that he would reclassify to the high school Class of 2012 from the Class of 2013.
“I’m ready to do it,” Noel, out of The Tilton (N.H.) School, told Dave Telep of ESPN.com in reference to reclassyifying. “It’s a short window of time to pick a school.”
Noel’s decision opens the way for him to spend one year on campus during the 2012-13 season — assuming he qualifies academically — and then to become the No. 1 pick in the 2013 NBA Draft.
Noel was born April 10, 1994. He turns 18 in April and will be 19 by the time of the 2013 NBA Draft.
“Sure he would be a lottery pick [in the draft] because they draft entirely on potential,” longtime New York recruiting expert Tom Konchalski said. “He’s gotta get stronger and do a lot of things, but he certainly would be” a lottery pick.
He added: “”If he is reclassifying, the whole point is to point him toward the 2013 NBA Draft rather than 2014.”
Konchalski joked that Noel would actually be “declassifying” rather than “reclassifying” because he was originally in the Class of 2012.
“Usually reclassifying means you add another year,” Konchalski said. “This means he would subtract a year. He would be declassifying because he was reclassified coming in.”
Whatever the case, Noel is clearly ready for college competition next year.
Evan Daniels, the national recruiting analyst for Scout.com, tweeted that Noel was the best American shot-blocker not currently in the NBA, and that includes Davis, the 6-10 Kentucky freshman expected to be the No. 1 pick in this year’s NBA Draft.
“[BABC coach] Leo Papile calls him Bill Russell,” Konchalski said of Noel. “He’s a guy who’s a terrific shot-blocker. He’s had double-figure games with blocks. He’s so quick off the floor. He runs the court extremely well. As Jay Bilas would say, he has great length.
“His offense is improving. His shot-blocking is way ahead of his offensive game, but he is improving.”
Along with forwards Jabari Parker and Julius Randle, Noel was one of the top three players in the Class of 2013, and the No. 1 ranking was up for debate.
“I’ll take Noel,” one high-major college assistant said. “He can dominate without having the ball. You can put players around him who can score, while the other two have to have the ball.”
Before Noel heads to the pros, of course, he will spend a year playing for some lucky college coach.
Noel currently lists Syracuse, UConn, Kentucky, Providence, Georgetown, North Carolina and Florida as his top choices.
He plans to take an official visit to Syracuse on Feb. 11, when the No. 2 Orange host UConn. Syracuse already has another future pro center, DaJuan Coleman, signed for next year.
Noel also told Scout.com he plans to visit Georgetown, North Carolina, Kentucky and Florida.
Noel is friendly with Syracuse freshman Michael Carter-Williams, UConn junior Alex Oriakhi and incoming Providence wing Ricky Ledo.
Kentucky, home of one-and-dones under coach John Calipari, is dreaming of a blockbuster recruiting class headlined by Noel, Muhammad and 6-7 forward Anthony Bennett of Findlay Prep. The Wildcats already have three signees, including 6-5 shooting guard Archie Goodwin, but the additions of Noel and Muhammad could dwarf even Calipari’s recent recruiting hauls. He’s had the No. 1 recruiting class in the nation three years running.
Noel plans to make a decision within the next couple of months.
But wherever he lands, it promises to be a short stay before he likely hears his name called by NBA commissioner David Stern in 2013.