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April 20, 2012

Davis moves on, expects big things from Noel

Maybe Anthony Davis is irreplaceable.

Maybe there's nobody who can fill the void Davis will leave in Kentucky's lineup as he exits to the NBA - a move he announced on Tuesday alongside teammates Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Terrence Jones, Doron Lamb and Marquis Teague, who will join him - to be the likely No. 1 pick in the June draft.

But Davis figures John Calipari is off to a good start in replacing him. Davis, who set a UK single-season record with 186 blocked shots, likes what he's seen out of Nerlens Noel, who has all of Davis' shot-swatting prowess.

Some experts have gone so far as to say Noel - who signed with UK on Thursday - is the superior shot-blocker.

"Actually, I think he is," Davis said. "I can't block with my left hand like he blocks it. He can block it with either hand. I kind of tip it with my left. Only difference is, he likes to throw it into the crowd, and I like to keep it in play. I'm pretty sure they'll change that here, though."

No matter how good a shot-blocker Noel is, he'll have big shoes to fill as Davis moves on.

In his one season at Kentucky, Davis led the Wildcats to a 38-2 record and an NCAA title. He led UK in scoring (14.2 points per game), rebounding (10.4 per game), field-goal percentage (62.3 percent) and, of course, blocked shots (4.6 per game).

Davis became a superstar in a year. And he'll leave as the most decorated player in UK history, having won the John Wooden, James Naismith, Adolph Rupp, United States Basketball Writers Association and Associated Press national Player of the Year awards.

He's a virtual certainty to be the first player selected in the NBA Draft on June, and though Davis insists that leaving UK for the NBA was a difficult decision - "I really do love school," he said - he made it Monday night after meeting with his parents.

"My mom wanted me to stay in school," Davis said. "My dad was like, 'All right, let's stop. Let's be serious for a second. Did you not just see what he did in college?'"

Davis intends to work toward a degree via online courses and summer school, he said, and he intends to keep a close eye on the Kentucky program. And he has a particular interest in Noel, whom he's met and watched play.

"He's an outstanding player," Davis said. "He plays offense as well as defense. He's going to be a great player here."

Given that, Davis said, it's no surprise that Noel wanted to sign with Kentucky and Calipari.

"A lot of guys want to play for him after seeing what he's doing (at Kentucky)," Davis said. "Three winning records, Elite Eight, Final Four, national championship. Guys want to play for who I think is the best coach. That's why I came here. He's going to push you, make you work hard, no matter who you are."

That includes Noel, who will arrive at Kentucky with almost as much hype as Davis did. Noel might even have a chance to make a run at Davis' single-season record for blocked shots.

"I think he does," Davis said. "Great shot-blocker. I think he's better than me. So you just have to wait and see (if he breaks the record). I hope he don't, though."


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