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Nerlens Noel entering NBA draft giving Kentucky projected top pick once again

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(AP)

Kentucky center Nerlens Noel officially announced Monday he is leaving school to enter the NBA draft as long suspected.

Noel is the likely No. 1 overall pick despite having suffered a torn left ACL Feb. 12 at Florida, ending his season after just 24 games. If Noel is selected No. 1 overall in the June 27 draft, it will be the first time in nearly 60 years players from the same school have been selected with the top pick in consecutive drafts. Former Wildcat Anthony Davis was the top pick in 2012 after leading Kentucky to the national championship.

The last time players from the same school were chosen No. 1 overall in successive seasons was 1955 and 1956 when Duquesne sent Dick Ricketts and Sihugo Green to the NBA in back-to-back years.

“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 from the school. “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.”

If Noel is selected No. 1 overall it will also mean Kentucky has produced three of the past four top picks for the NBA. John Wall was picked No. 1 in 2010.

Noel led the nation with 4.4 blocked shots per game at the time of his injury and his 106 blocks were the second most in a single season at Kentucky, trailing only Davis.

The 6-foot-10 Noel was named first-team All Southeastern Conference and earned the Freshman of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year awards in the conference. The U.S. Basketball Writers Association named him a Freshman All-American.

Noel nearly averaged a double-double in his 24 college games with 10.5 points and 9.5 rebounds.

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