James will operate on Noel to repair the torn anterior cruciate ligament, which will take Noel six to eight months to fully recover. Scott Mair of University of Kentucky Sports Medicine will observe and coordinate Noel’s rehabilitation process, according to ESPN.com.
Before Noel suffered the injury against the Florida Gators, the 6-foot-10 freshman was projected as a lottery pick in the 2013 NBA Draft, which influenced his decision when to have the surgery. He was leading the nation with 106 blocks before getting hurt.
“Due to the unique timetable for Nerlens’ recovery in regards to the NBA Draft deadline, the University of Kentucky and Noel’s family thought it was in his best interest to have his surgery performed by Dr. Andrews in Florida,” Kentucky athletic department spokesman DeWayne Peevy said in a statement.
Having Andrews to perform the surgery allows Andrews the accessibility to communicate with NBA personnel regarding his post-surgery recovery since Andrews has strong ties to NBA franchises. Kentucky is prohibited from speaking with NBA teams.
Wildcats coach John Calipari declined to comment on Noel’s return to the team when asked during a teleconference on Monday.
Noel, who was initially expected to have to surgery within two to three weeks of the incident, will not be with team at the Southeastern Conference tournament beginning Wednesday in Nashville, Tenn.
“After talking with my family, I decided to schedule my surgery over spring break so I wouldn’t miss as much class,” Noel said in a statement. “I wish all my teammates luck in the SEC tournament and look forward to getting back to Lexington as soon as I can to begin my rehab and finish my school work.”
The Wildcats have been inconsistent without Noel in their starting rotation, going 4-3 without him. They are currently 21-10 overall and 12-6 in SEC in play. They suffered a 30-point drilling to Tennessee in their first game without Noel, losing 88-58. But they managed to pull off three consecutive wins after the loss.
Their inconsistent play had the reigning national champions on the bubble to reach the NCAA tournament until they defeated the Gators Saturday 61-57, which earned them a No. 2 seed in the conference tournament. But they cannot afford a bad loss in the SEC tournament if they want to make it back NCAA tournament.