UK: Noel will enter 2013 NBA Draft

Kentucky’s basketball program made it official Monday: Nerlens Noel will enter his name in this year’s NBA Draft.

In entering the NBA Draft after this freshman season, Noel joins such recent UK players as John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Eric Bledsoe, Daniel Orton, Brandon Knight, Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Marquis Teague.

“I have loved my time at Kentucky, but I feel that I’m ready to take the next step to the NBA,” Noel said in a news release. “I’ve learned so much here at UK and am thankful for Coach (John) Calipari, the staff and my teammates for all of their support. I especially appreciate the Big Blue Nation and all of the support, prayers and well-wishes I’ve received from them during my rehab and decision-making process. I’ll always be a Wildcat!”

Noel was among the nation’s leaders in blocks and steals. But a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee cut short his freshman season.

Noel, an Everett, Mass., native, led the nation in blocks as he averaged 4.4 rejections per game and tallied 106 in 24 games played. Prior to his season-ending knee injury he was the only player standing taller than 6-foot-5 to rank in the top 30 in steals per outing as he had accumulated 50 steals on the year, UK said in the news release.

Before and after the injury, Noel was projected in several mock drafts to be a lottery pick in the 2013 NBA Draft. He averaged 10.5 points and 9.5 rebounds per game.

After the injury, his brother, Rodman, told CBSSports.com that it was likely that Noel would enter this year’s draft.

Noel finished the season ranked second in UK single-season history with 106 blocks. His 50 steals ranked as the fifth most in a single season by a freshman, and the average of 2.1 steals per game (2.1) is the seventh-best mark in school history.

“I support Nerlens’ decision to enter his name in the draft and am excited for him and his future,” Calipari said in the news release. “The hard work and will to win he showed on the floor this year and the dedication and attitude he has shown in his rehab will only be a reward for him and whatever team drafts him in June.”

The NBA Draft lottery is scheduled for Tuesday, May 21, and the 2013 NBA Draft will take place Thursday, June 27.