The Wild Race for Nerlens Noel
Words. High School Hoop
The race for 6-10 Tilton School (Everett, Mass.) uber-recruit Nerlens Noel has reached such a fever pitch that the sweepstakes warranted a massive story in yesterday’s New York Times. The story focuses on Nerlens’ upbringing, his game and the circus that now surrounds him, his college choice and the potential tens of millions of dollars waiting for him in the NBA.
A sample of the insanity:
EVERETT, Mass. — Nerlens Noel is a 6-foot-10 basketball star considered the best prospect from the Boston area since Patrick Ewing. He is the top-ranked high school senior in the country, and hailed as the best shot blocker of his generation. The 17-year-old son of working-class Haitian immigrants, he could be worth $10 million in about 16 months when he is eligible for the 2013 N.B.A draft.
His college choices have narrowed to some of the elite programs in the country: Kentucky, Syracuse, North Carolina, Georgetown and Connecticut.
All make the future seem blindingly bright for Noel. But in the shadowy world of recruiting, it is rarely that simple. The pursuit of Noel includes not just college coaches hoping for a star on the court. There are also fringe figures hoping to latch on to a player seemingly viewed more as a commodity than as a teenager.
“I feel like the kid is a piece of meat right now, and he’s going to be used,” said George Wright-Easy, one of the numerous adults who have mentored Noel over the years. “Grown men are fighting over a kid.”
Those tied on some level with Noel’s recruitment include a former Providence assistant who has been barred from visiting Noel’s prep school, an unemployed high school football coach, a prominent coach of a summer basketball team in Boston, Noel’s high school coach, a former star recruit who believes his career was derailed by bad advice and a low-level N.B.A. agent who works for the group that represents LeBron James, Creative Artists Agency.
The scramble to get close to Noel underscores how important it is to be associated with an elite high school recruit. For a coach, it may mean a lucrative job. For an agent, the hope is big money once the player reaches the N.B.A. For a player like Noel, however, it can mean a cacophony of voices, people with motives of their own. Choosing whom to listen to could mean the difference between a future filled with N.B.A. riches or a tale discussed in muted tones along the recruiting trail.
If Nerlens Noel is the first player selected in the 2013 N.B.A. draft, as the Web site Draft Express currently projects, he should receive a contract of about $20 million. If he is among the top 10 picks, he can expect a deal worth at least $10 million.
The rest of the article delves into the deep workings of the characters trying to hitch themselves to Noel’s star. Stories like this one are not new by any means, but they always grab your attention and make you ask, “What are we doing?”