LEXINGTON, Ky. — Kentucky received the news it dreaded Wednesday when freshman forward Nerlens Noel was declared out for the season with a torn ligament in his left knee.
Noel, a native of Everett, tore his ACL on Tuesday night when No. 25 Kentucky lost at Florida. An MRI revealed the injury, and the 6-foot-10 forward will have surgery in the next two or three weeks.
The projected recovery period is six to eight months.
Noel’s injury deals a serious postseason blow for the defending national champions, who had appeared to be gaining some footing after struggling earlier this season while trying to blend in four freshmen. Leading the way defensively for the Wildcats was Noel, who began Tuesday first in the nation with 4.5 blocks per game.
The rookie took a positive approach to the diagnosis, posting on Twitter, “Minor setback for a MAJOR comeback! I love you all and can’t thank y’all enough for the prayers.”
Noel was hurt with 8 minutes left in the Wildcats’ 69-52 loss to the seventh-ranked Gators. He ran into the basket support after blocking a layup from behind. Noel landed awkwardly, dropped to the floor and started screaming while clutching his knee.
Noel had eight points, six rebounds and three blocks before the injury.
“I’ve been coaching for 22 years and this is the first injury we’ve had of this kind during the season, which makes it even more devastating,” Kentucky coach John Calipari said in a statement.
“I met with Nerlens earlier today. The meeting was really positive, and I loved his attitude. The way he is already dealing with this injury lets me know that he is going to come back stronger than ever. ... Obviously this is not a career-ending injury and it’s one that athletes bounce back from all the time.”