After announcing his intention to reclassify to 2012 last week, some are quick to tab Tilton (N.H.) center Nerlens Noel as the next big thing in college basketball.
Noel's AAU coach says he has the potential to make a similar impact to that of Kentucky's Anthony Davis as a freshman next season.
Billed as the best prep shot blocker to come through the high school ranks in quite some time, Noel has drawn comparisons to everyone from Kentucky's Anthony Davis, to Greg Oden and even maybe the best defensive player of all-time, Boston Celtics great Bill Russell.
Noel's coach with the Boston Area Basketball Club (BABC) travel team, Leo Papile, who spent 14 year in the Celtics front office as head scout, director of player personnel and assistant executive director of basketball operations, says the Russell comparison is unfair.
"I'm old enough to have seen Bill Russell. I saw him play a couple hundred times. It's a different game," Papile said. "It's like Babe Ruth and Mark McGwire. It's hard to cross generations like that. The athletic world is so different now. After 16 years in the NBA, it's premature."
Papile, however, did say he's very confident that Noel could have a similar impact to that of Davis as a freshman in the college game.
"With the mediocre state of college basketball, which has been strip mined for 20 years by the pros, I don't see why he couldn't be an immediate impact," Papile said. "There's not doubt he could go into the SEC Nov. 15, be in the lineup and be a factor."
Noel, now ranked as the No. 2 overall prospect in the 2012 class by 247Sports and PrepStars.com behind only Shabazz Muhammad, has listed Kentucky, along with Syracuse, Providence, North Carolina, Georgetown and Florida.
"He did a blog and mentioned 8-10 schools," Papile said.
Even with the lofty expectations placed upon him, Papile says the 6-foot-10, 215-pound phenom isn't thinking one and done or NBA just yet.
"The fact that he's attempting to graduate this year, I don't think he'd look at any school as one and done," Papile said. "He could leave Tilton as a post-grad and be eligible [for the draft]. I don't think that will be a factor to him. I think he has visions of being a college player. That means something to him."
According to Papile, the chance to win a national title will play a major factor in his college decision.
"He's extremely competitive and the ability to win games would be my educated guess. The ability to be in a program that could win," Papile said. "All these kids pay attention to the roster but as far as location, climate, distance from home, I've never discussed that with him."
So, outside of his uncanny shot-blocking, what is it that makes Noel such a coveted and unique prospect?
"His versatility is attractive. His versatility would be a good fit anywhere. He's a chameleon," Papile said. "He has a very good feel for the game. In the halfcourt, he's a guy you can run [offense] through. He's not a black hole. He can get guys really good shots. His feel and understanding of the game, he's a terrific passer. That's rare at his size and age."