UK basketball star Nerlens Noel tears ACL, out for season


by Gene Kang, Nicole Harrell

Posted on February 13, 2013 at 6:42 PM

Updated Wednesday, Feb 13 at 7:45 PM

(WHAS11) -- University of Kentucky freshman Nerlens Noel is out for the remainder of the season with a torn ACL, according to UK Athletics.

WHAS11 caught a glimpse of the star player on crutches as he limped through the front door of the Wildcat Coal Lodge, where the athletes live. Fans have been hoping for the best after seeing him screaming in pain Tuesday night.

His injury happened during the team's 69-52 loss to the Florida Gators. Noel went down halfway through the second half of the game after he bent his knee in an unnatural position. The injury came after Noel was transitioning to block a lay-up. His momentum carried him forward where his left knee hit the support post of the basket behind the end line. Teammates had to carry Noel off the court and he was taken to a Gainesville hospital for X-rays.

Medical staff with UK say that surgery will be needed in the next two to three weeks. The normal timetable for recovery is usually six to eight months.

Kentucky students hope Noel bounces back quickly.

"I hope he can come back. If he can't that'll be devastating to the season," Senior Luke Glaser said.

"You don't want to see a young man like him ruin his career on one injury like that but hopefully everything comes back alright," Senior Joseph Kabazie said.

"It means a lot to lose Noel. He's the heart and soul of this team and obviously he's probably the best player," Junior Tyler Cook said.

Noel is expected to be among the top picks in the NBA draft. According to a news release, Noel was leading the nation in blocks (106) and blocks per game (4.4) and ranked second in the Southeastern Conference in rebounding (9.5). He was also averaging 10.5 points per game for the Wildcats.

Coach John Calipari released the following statement Wednesday:
"I’ve been coaching for 22 years and this is the first injury we’ve had of this kind during the season, which makes it even more devastating. I met with Nerlens earlier today, the meeting was really positive, and I loved his attitude. The way he is already dealing with this injury lets me know that he is going to come back stronger than ever. The good news is he is insured, so he would have been fine even if the injury would have been worse. Obviously this is not a career-ending injury and it’s one that athletes bounce back from all the time.

On Twitter Noel had this to say: "Minor setback for a major come back. I love you all and can't thank y'all enough for the prayers."

It's enough to reassure Big Blue Nation for now. The Wildcats have seven regular season games remaining.

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