When all the speculation was over, Nerlens Noel’s decision was in his head the whole time.
The Everett product and the top high school player in the country announced Wednesday that he will sign with the national champion Kentucky Wildcats, ending a whirlwind stretch of college visits and a never-ending guessing game about where the 18-year-old phenom would end up.
He did it, though, by unveiling the Kentucky logo shaved into the back of his signature high-top fade.
In North Carolina for the Jordan Brand Classic, Noel announced the decision in a live signing day special on ESPNU.
The show had more than a hint of LeBron James’s 2010 decision. Noel went so far as to say he would “take my talents” to Lexington.
Noel, who originally transferred from Everett High School to the Tilton School in New Hampshire, shook up the 2012 recruiting class when he decided to reclassify, graduating from Tilton this spring rather than next.
His defensive skills have been compared to Bill Russell by coaches but a more modern-day comparison is Greg Oden, who dominated at Ohio State and was the No. 1 pick in the 2007 NBA draft.
Noel’s professional prospects are already a topic of discussion with many draft experts pegging him as a lottery pick in 2013.
For Kentucky, getting Noel to commit couldn’t be a bigger. Under head coach John Calipari, the Wildcats have had three straight No. 1 recruiting classes, mastering the art of turning players who stay for just one season into powerhouse teams.
This past season, freshman center Anthony Davis racked up award after award (consensus first team All-American, national player of the year, and freshman of the year among them), leading Kentucky to its eight national championship.
Noel, considered to be superior to Davis defensively but behind offensively, will presumably slide into the role Davis left behind.