Kentucky freshman center Nerlens Noel declared for the NBA draft on Monday.
"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 prepared statement. "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."
SI.com's Chris Mannix has Noel ranked No. 1 on his latest Big Board.
I'm not sure whether it speaks to the weakness at the top of the draft or the potential of Noel, but multiple general managers of teams with lottery picks say that if they land at No. 1, Noel is the pick. "He is not Anthony Davis," said an Eastern Conference executive. "Davis is better. But he [Noel] is a high-energy center who will rebound and block shots. He's the guy."
Noel, 19, averaged 10.5 points, 9.5 rebounds and 4.4 blocks for the Wildcats this season, but suffered a season-ending knee injury in February. He shot 59 percent from the field for the season and earned first-team All-SEC and SEC Defensive Player of the Year honors.
A Massaschusetts native, Noel is listed at 6-foot-10 and 228 pounds. He ranks No. 1 on DraftExpress.com’s top 100 and No. 1 on Chad Ford’s top 100 at ESPN Insider. Even though his rehabilitation could cost him months of the 2013-14 season, Noel's length and defensive instincts continue to make him the consensus favorite to become the No. 1 overall pick on June 27. If he is selected No. 1 overall, he would join John Wall in 2010 and Anthony Davis in 2012 as the third Kentucky player in four years to be selected No. 1 overall.