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Sunday / February 26.

Kentucky’s Noel Out for Season With Torn ACL; Draft Status Uncertain

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Kentucky freshman Nerlens Noel, the projected No. 1 pick in this year’s NBA Draft, will be out for the remainder of the season with a torn ACL injury suffered during Tuesday night’s game at Florida.

According to the UK medical staff, surgery should be expected in the next two to three weeks. The normal timetable for recovery is estimated at six to eight months.

The 6-10 freshman was leading the nation in blocks (106) and blocks per game (4.4) and ranked second in the Southeastern Conference in rebounding (9.5). He was also averaging 10.5 points per game for the Wildcats.

Noel is widely projected as the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA Draft, but his status now remains uncertain.

“I think he was the first pick,” one veteran NBA scout told “Now it’s in the twilight zone.”

Noel could opt to remain in college for another year and come back and play a full year at Kentucky alongside a loaded recruiting class that includes five Jordan Brand All-Americans, or he could opt to come out early, rehab under the care of an NBA franchise and hope to come back during his rookie season in the NBA.

“Every team now, their medical people will make the call and advise on that,” the scout said.

“There’s guys every year that are rejected by some teams and are given the green light by others. That depends on the team and how he heels up. It’s TBD at a later date.”

A second NBA scout said Noel’s injury would likely propel him to leave early.

“The injury will not affect his draft status and teams will get a better feel for his knee injury once he attends the Chicago Pre-Draft Camp and goes through physicals,” the second scout said. “Usually with an injury like this the player and family tend to think about coming out rather than staying in school because of any future injuries. He has played well enough this season and established himself as a top prospect prior to this injury.”

If Noel doesn’t come out, the No. 1 pick could come from among the group of Kansas guard Ben McLemore, UCLA wing Shabazz Muhammad, UNLV forward Anthony Bennett and Indiana big man Cody Zeller.

“McLemore is definitely a candidate,” the first scout said.

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Adam Zagoria is a New York Times contributor and Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013. He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.