From the beginning of her senior season there was little doubt that Perry Central’s Kendall Noble would be up for a major award by the end of the season. That notion went from talk to reality on March 9 when she was one of five seniors nominated as finalists for Kentucky Miss Basketball.
Noble completed her final season with her sixth straight appearance in the Sweet 16 (a state record as far as we know), averaging 14.5 points, 9.1 rebounds, 8.5 assists and 7.5 steals per game. And those final two statistics – assists and steals – really help illustrate the type of basketball player she has become, said Perry Central Coach Randy Napier.
“I think the thing that makes her such a valuable player, and one of the elite players in the state, is her ability to do everything well,” said Napier. “She’s a great scorer, but she does such a good job getting her teammates involved and distributing the ball and rebounding and playing defense. She does everything.”
Her senior season very well could have been derailed by a torn ligament in her knee suffered during the first round of the 2011 Sweet 16. Napier said he was initially worried that Noble could come back tentative and fearing another injury, but once she hit the floor, he added, he quickly realized that those worries were unfounded.
“That’s usually an 18-month process getting over that, and it was more like a nine-month process for her, and she looks like she was never hurt,” he said.
“Difficult,” is how Noble herself described the long weeks of rehab following her injury. “I hated it. It was hard, but I’m glad I got through it.”
She didn’t just get through it, as she was able to tack on an outstanding overall final season to a career that began as a seventh grader in Breathitt County. According to Coach Napier, Noble finished her high school career with her name on several state all-time top 10 lists in categories both offensively and defensively.
“That’s just uncommon,” he noted.
Noble said she was excited to learn of her nomination for the state’s top high school basketball award because there’s a lot of good seniors out there in Kentucky. And while she said it would be “awesome” to win the award, individual accolades aren’t necessarily what drive her to keep improving in the game of basketball.
“I don’t care about all that scoring and stats and stuff,” she said. “I just want to win. That’s all I care about. I wish we could have won, but that happens.”
And it was that sort of attitude of team first that made Noble one of Kentucky’s top players, and in Napier’s mind, the best.
“She understands the game, and she understands, ‘Hey, I’ve got good players with me, and this makes me better, it makes my team better, makes everybody better if I get everybody involved,” Napier explained. “I think that just speaks volumes about her, her unselfishness, her attitude toward team first.”
“Naturally, I’m biased,” he later noted. “But I think when you look at the big picture and the entire career, what they’ve contributed to the sport and to the community and to the team, I think that weighs so much, and I think that separates her.”
Noble does plan to continue her basketball career at the next level. She has fielded interest from several schools, including Ole Miss, Xavier, Western Kentucky and others, and she said she hopes to finalize her decision soon.
“I’m going to go visit (schools) starting next week, and hopefully sign soon, but I don’t know yet,” she said, adding that she hopes to make her choice by the late signing period in April.
It is a big decision to make, that choice, but whatever she chooses Napier is sure her talents on the court will be well utilized at the next level.
“She’s going to be a great college player,” he said.
Kendall Noble is up for Miss Basketball with four other seniors in Kentucky: Jeanna Crittenden of Ryle High School, Sydney Moss of Boone County High School, Jasmine Whitfield of South Oldham High School and April Wilson of DuPont Manual High School. The 2012 Miss Basketball will be announced during a ceremony on Saturday, April 28 in Louisville.
Noble is also one of two Perry County students named as a finalist, as Buckhorn’s Matt Day was nominated for Mr. Basketball this year as well. The Herald will have more on that later this week.