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Frisking the Fade: NCAA Asking Questions About Nerlens Noel’s Recruitment

Syracuse may have dodged a bullet when Nerlens Noel chose Kentucky last month. The NCAA is now snooping around N2’s academics and cadre of “advisors,” according to the New York Times. Tilton’s headmaster Jim Clements gave an eery statement that makes you wonder where this will wind up, “I’m sure there will be a little drama, and such is life. He and family and others were well aware of it when he decided to reclassify. It will get played out, but it won’t be here.”

Here’s who/what the NCAA’s enforcement staff is looking at:

  • Everett High School

Nerlens grew up in Everett, spent his first two years of high school there, then decided to transfer and play basketball at the posh Tilton Academy in New Hampshire. Everett’s principal, Louis Baldi, said the meeting lasted over an hour and centered on “concerns we had as adults” for Noel. “He said the conversation was similar to one he had with a reporter in February about Noel’s background and the people surrounding him.” That would be for the expose the Times ran on Noel’s shady recruitment. Back in March Baldi had this haunting statement:

Baldi said he was “extremely concerned” about Noel, and said that his recruitment reminded him of a boxer with a teeming entourage in his heyday who might find himself penniless upon retirement. “I pray it works out for him and that the light turns on in his head,” Baldi said of Noel. “I pray it’s not too late.”

The Everett community was always bitter its homegrown star left for the gleaming private school hours away. Wouldn’t be surprised if this is where some major leakage came from.

  • Leo Papile, Noel’s old coach with Boston Amateur Basketball Club

The NCAA staffers were unable to get ahold of Papile (at least for now). Which is probably a good thing for Noel. When asked about Noel’s handler, the ultra-shady Chris Driscoll, Papile said in the original Times story:

“He’s a great disappointment to me. I thought he had wanted to be a coach, but it appears that his primary object was to be a handler. He’s not a teacher, he’s not a coach. Bluntly, you’re dealing with the worst guy I’ve ever known in this game.”

If there’s anyone willing to really dish dirt on Driscoll it would probably be Papile. All along he seemed to be one of the precious few with Noel’s best interests at heart, and was crushed when N2 followed Driscoll. Papile appears to absolutely despise Driscoll (and who wouldn’t?). This could be huge if Papile gets involved.

  • Errol Randolph, Everertt High Substitute Teacher

Just so happens Randolph is one of Noel’s advisors and seems to have a direct connection to a sports agency. Oy.

“Randolph had a link on his LinkedIn page directing people to the Web site of the sports agency run by the prominent basketball agent Andy Miller. The link to Miller’s ASM Sports Web site has since been removed.

Randolph said that he had no formal affiliation with Miller and had never received money from him, and that the Web site ended up on his LinkedIn page because he was browsing it. Randolph said he knew Miller from another relationship more than 10 years ago.”

Whoops! Funny how that happens, huh? Can’t believe I had that link up to on my LinkedIn page. Better take it down when the NCAA comes knocking. This much we know, Team Noel is not the sharpest fades in the barber shop.

  • Nerlens’ finances

The NCAA is looking at how N2 funded his trips to Louisville and Kentucky last year. Neither trip was paid for by the schools. Will this come back on UK or will it all land at the feet of Noel’s handlers? It triggers an interesting quote from the Times original piece.

Tilton’s headmaster Jim Clements said the school had had extensive discussions with Noel and his mother about the difference between official and unofficial visits and how to “not engage in behavior that would create a violation” of N.C.A.A. rules. “I don’t think his primary focus is a student’s well-being,” Tilton coach Marcus O’Neil said of Driscoll.

Tilton was aware pretty quickly sketchy stuff was happening with its prized hoops star, and started trying to limit the collateral damage back then. Eventually Tilton got so spooked by the whole Noel situation they barred the next guy from their campus altogether…

  • Chris Driscoll, Mr. Shady

This guy keeps popping up as the definition of awful. Papile called Driscoll “the worst guy I’ve ever known in this game” (which is pretty bad when you consider the AAU circuit as a whole). Driscoll latched onto Noel early, knowing he would be his ticket to the big time. He was hired then fired as an assistant at Providence. Some of the background on Mr. Shady:

Laurel Cannon, the mother of guard Gerard Coleman, called Providence administrators and claimed that her son was asked by Driscoll to fake an injury in order to lose games. The reason he asked, Cannon told Providence administrators, was so Coach Keno Davis would be fired and Driscoll could take over. “No one wants someone to see their child used as a product; no one does,” Cannon said. “He had us fooled. He really had us fooled.”

Tilton Coach O’Neill: “He told me that he thought he was going to be the next coach at Providence College and that I could be his assistant. All I had to do was help him to get Nerlens Noel to commit to Providence College. ‘Nerlens is my last chance,’ O’Neil recalled Driscoll saying. ‘I need to score, and I need to score big.’”

Former Iowa State star Will Blaylock: “Driscoll instructed him to call the athletic director, Bruce Van De Velde, and say he would attend another university unless Iowa State hired the assistant Wayne Morgan as Eustachy’s replacement.”

It’s a rogue’s gallery of handlers surrounding Noel’s recruitment. You know how the NCAA works. The association has no “investigative team.” It sits around playing Angry Birds all day, then waits until the Times or Yahoo! breaks news. The NCAA then snaps into action months later, making phone calls and taking some business trips. The danger is, once the NCAA starts asking questions, it gets answers it doesn’t want to hear. It’s then forced to act on this information.

Will it get enough to nail Kentucky to a cross? Probably not. Hell, the Chicago Sun-Times reported Anthony Davis’ dad was shopping him to the highest bidder. Davis played without incident at UK, and ended up cutting down the nets. But Noel does seem to have an enormous amount of smoke around him, maybe more than any other high-profile recruit of the last decade or so. And depending on his level of involvement with Mr. Shady, it certainly can’t help Noel’s eligibility. After dealing with Bernie Fine, Fab Melo and the drug reports, it’s not a bad thing the NCAA inquisition won’t land at the door of SU to ask about Noel. I’m sure overzealous Wildcat fans will storm this comments section and start calling it sour grapes. Whatever. You get the feeling we’re just peeling back the first layers of this onion – and it’s gonna make someone cry.

Posted: D.A.

The Fizz is owned, edited and operated by Damon Amendolara. D.A. is an ’01 Syracuse graduate from the Newhouse School with a degree in Broadcast Journalism.

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