LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) - Kentucky freshman Nerlens Noel will have surgery on his injured left knee Tuesday, a move that could offer a hint about his future with the Wildcats.
Famed orthopedic surgeon James Andrews will perform the operation to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament in Gulf Breeze, Fla. Scott Mair of University of Kentucky Sports Medicine will observe and coordinate Noel's rehabilitation, which is expected to take six to eight months.
Noel's NBA prospects played a major role in when the 6-foot-10 freshman will have the surgery and who is performing it.
"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.
"Being one of the few surgeons that NBA franchises use regularly, Dr. Andrews' involvement will allow the NBA personnel to have the most updated post-surgery information available in regards to Nerlens' medical condition. Our medical staff and administrators are not permitted to talk to NBA teams and Nerlens is not allowed to be examined by the NBA, prior to the draft, without jeopardizing his eligibility."
Kentucky coach John Calipari wouldn't comment on Noel's return to the program, saying "all the other stuff will take time to play out" during a Monday teleconference.
Noel sustained the season-ending injury on Feb. 12 at Florida and was expected to have the surgery within two to three weeks
Considered the nation's top recruit and projected as an NBA draft lottery pick, Noel was leading the nation with 106 blocks when he sustained the devastating injury with eight minutes remaining in the Wildcats' eventual 69-52 loss to the Gators.
Noel, who has attended Wildcats home games since his injury, will not be with the team for 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."
Kentucky (21-10, 12-6) struggled to play well consistently with a healthy Noel and the Wildcats are just 4-3 without him. Tennessee routed the Wildcats 88-58 in their first game without Noel before reeling off three straight wins.
But the Wildcats then lost two road games before rebounding with Saturday's 61-57 home win over the Gators that earned them the No. 2 seed for the conference tournament. Beating Florida also provided the late season signature victory that the defending national champions needed to improve their chances of earning an at-large NCAA tournament bid.