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The Dagger

Prized Kentucky freshman Nerlens Noel cleared to play right away

Jeff Eisenberg
The Dagger

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Nerlens Noel (US Presswire)

Two of the top five freshmen in the nation still await word from the NCAA on their status. A third will officially be allowed to play.

Whereas UCLA's Shabazz Muhammad and Kyle Anderson remain in limbo as the NCAA investigates whether they received extra benefits during their recruitment, Kentucky's Nerlens Noel has been cleared to play immediately for the Wildcats. Kentucky coach John Calipari broke the news on ESPN on Wednesday morning and an NCAA spokesman confirmed the news to multiple media outlets Wednesday afternoon.

"He's cleared right now to practice and compete," NCAA spokesman Bob Williams told the Louisville Courier-Journal.

At issue in Noel's recruitment were a series of perceived red flags from his high school days that were initially reported by Pete Thamel in the New York Times and on SI.com. CBSSports.com also reported Wednesday that one of the final issues concerning Noel's amateur status was how he once paid for an unofficial visit to Louisville.

Based on its ruling, it's clear the NCAA could not find concrete evidence Noel accepted any impermissible extra benefits. Noel's status could be reevaluated if the NCAA finds any new evidence, but at this point it appears the 6-foot-11 shot-blocking centerpiece of Kentucky's latest No. 1 recruiting class is good to go.

Not quite so fortunate are Muhammad and Anderson, the two decorated freshmen UCLA recruited to reverse its recent fortunes. UCLA continues to say their status remains unchanged at this point and refused to let either address their respective situations during media availability last week.

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