The injury he sustained in Kentucky's loss at Florida was diagnosed as a torn ACL in his left knee and Noel will be forced to miss the rest of the season. The UK medical staff said Noel is expected to undergo surgery in the next two to three weeks and that recovery from this type of injury normally takes between six and eight months.
"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," John Calipari said on CoachCal.com. "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. "
Noel's injury came on a play that defines what made him UK's best player and, in many ways, its heart and soul. After a turnover by the Wildcats, Noel set off in furious pursuit of Florida's Scottie Wilbekin. Making up ground in a matter of a few seconds with his quickness and long strides, Noel came from behind to block Wilbekin's shot out of bounds and save a sure two points. It was then that Noel landed awkwardly near the basket support and went down in pain.
Through 24 games, Noel averaged 10.5 points, 9.5 rebounds, 4.4 blocks and 2.1 steals, leading his team in the latter three categories. His 106 blocks are still the most in the NCAA and just of Anthony Davis's record-setting pace of last season.
Much of Noel's impact, however, cannot be quantified. On a team that otherwise has battled consistency issues, Noel delivered the same energy and defensive presence every time he took the floor while starting all 24 of UK's games.
There will be plenty of time in the coming days and weeks to discuss UK without its star forward, but the focus now should be on sending well wishes to Noel. It's always scary to hear of a major injury for a player with a player of Noel's skill and potential, but his future remains bright no matter what path he chooses next. Those who saw the injury live were immediately fearful of it affecting him in the long term, but many other athletes have made comebacks from similar diagnoses.
"The good news is he is insured, so he would have been fine even if the injury would have been worse," Coach Cal said. "Obviously this is not a career-ending injury and it's one that athletes bounce back from all the time."
UPDATE: Noel's disability insurance noted by Coach Calipari was purchased through the NCAA Exceptional Student-Athlete Disability Insurance Program.
Noel is in for a long road to recovery, but if his first public comment is any indication, it's one he's more than capable of traversing.
Minor setback for a MAJOR comeback!I love you all and can't thank y'all enough for the prayers.-- Nerlens Noel (@NerlensNoel3) February 13, 2013