LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Nerlens Noel's 106th blocked shot as a Kentucky Wildcat will most likely be his last. Noel held his left knee in pain after the rejection and then had to be helped off the floor by his teammates during Wednesday night's loss to Florida.
He'll have surgery in a few weeks, with an expected recovery time of between six to eight months.
This is a tough pill to swallow for Kentucky fans not just because of Noel's incredible talent on the court, but because he's a well liked student-athlete who always plays his heart out every time he hits the floor. The painful cry from Noel after the injury put a big hurt on Big Blue Nation.
Seeing Noel in agony, then seeing the nation's leading shot blocker carried off the floor by his teammates was difficult to watch. A Lexington Herald-Leader newspaper photograph showed just how bad his knee injury was. It was tough for any sports fan.
"I'm bummed for the kid," said Tony Vanetti, host of the Afternoon Underdogs on Sports Radio 790, "I like him a lot."
"Nerlens Noel gave you a chance to erase defensive mistakes and he kept this team together," added co-host Dave Jennings.
The injury is most difficult for those who love Noel.
"It's upsetting to lose our best player,' said a student on the UK campus, "Especially right before March Madness."
The projected top five NBA pick wears his die-hard "Cat-titude" on his sleeve, the UK logo is shaved in his head and Noel certainly agreed with Coach John Calipari's system of play.
A fan calling into the Afternoon Underdogs Sports Radio show said, "I hope he gets back and I'm sure he'll make plenty of money, but I just feel bad for the kid."
"He's been the face of the team," said Matt Jones of Kentucky Sports Radio, "and so to lose him, I think fans are taking it really hard."
The UK faithful flocked to Kentucky Sports Radio after learning Noel's season is over with a torn ACL in his left knee.
Fans are mixed if they'll be a post-season for the Cats. Jones said fans will rally around the team no matter what, but says, "Without Noel, I think it will be hard for them to make the tournament."
Fans also sounded off on other sports talk shows. One caller said of the post season, "I think if anything, this (Noel's injury) may bring the team together. Another called said, "I just don't see us making it in the tournament, I just don't, but I hope I'm wrong."
"He was the motor that runs that team." said Vanetti. "It's the story of college basketball so far."
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