April 9, 2007 by Joe Boesch • Print Story •
He came. He played. He left.
Joakim Noah played a large part in helping the Florida Gators repeat as 2007 National Champions. His hard work ethic and championship play comes straight from his family — his father is former professional tennis player and 1983 French Open Champion Yannick Noah. But early on in life the younger Noah, who is of Cameroonian, French, and Swedish descent, dumped the tennis racket for the basketball and his decision has paid off.
He began his career in New York City at the United Nations International School and then transferred to Brooklyn's Poly Prep. But, through determination for his love of basketball, he then transferred to Princeton's Lawrenceville School. It was there that his championship career began. He led his team to the New Jersey Prep A state title where he averaged 24 points and 12 rebounds per game. His first year (2004-2005) on the Florida team wasn't too kind for Noah. He didn't play much (10.3 minutes per game) and averaged 3.9 points and 2.7 rebounds in each game. He only appeared in three minutes of the Gators' two 2005 NCAA tournament games.
Knowing what champions are made of, Noah made improvements to his game and took his hard work ethic, which he learned from his father, to the next level on the basketball court. Once the 2005-2006 basketball season arrived, the 6'11" sophomore known to be also 7' 0" depending on who you talk to, lead the Gators with 14.2 points and 2.4 blocks per game and second in rebounds with 7.1. That not only pushed Noah's draft stock up, but helped the Gators to the Final Four. After being named Most Outstanding Player of the tournament's Minneapolis Regional, nothing could stop the hard-charging Noah.
Like his father who would grace the tennis court with his hard serves and volleys, the younger Noah was tearing up the basketball court during March Madness like a "mad man" with his long curly hair bouncing around in a ponytail. Leading the Gators to their first championship over UCLA 73-57, he recorded 16 points, 9 rebounds, and 6 block shots, which is a championship game record and was named the Most Valuable Player of the Final Four. Many basketball scouts said that, "Noah would be the first pick," but he decided along with his teammates to return to guide the Gators back to glory.
Repeating as National Champions beating Ohio State 84-75, Noah has made it known that he will enter the draft this year. Many said by returning to Florida this past season, he hurt his chances of being drafted first overall. According to HoopsVibe.com's mock draft, they predict Noah being drafted sixth overall. Besides being the all-time Gators block leader in tournament play with 41, he plays a good defense and passes well. Though he's touted as a big defensive player, his offense still needs work. In time, he will develop to be a force in the NBA. He has a never-say-never attitude and constantly works hard to improve his game.
Now, as many have said, this is where his 7'0" frame comes in to help him. Though he personally said he don't want his height listed as 7'0" because he "does not want to look like a freak," it may help him. Even at press conferences, coach Billy Donovan said more than once that Noah does stand at 7'0". It was even mentioned on ESPN by sportswriter Woody Paige on the show "Around the Horn" that he's 7'0". All this can do is help Noah's chances come draft day.
I personally think he'll be drafted within the top five because he's just that good and a hot commodity now. He was named to the 2006 Associated Press All-SEC First Team, Honorable Mention All-American, and, because he's so popular, a local radio station in Gainesville campaigned to rename the major roadway that goes through the University of Florida to "Joakim Noah Road."
Once the draft comes, Noah will have a hefty contract, a chance to break records in the NBA, and, of course, to bring his next team to glory because everyone knows he's a champion.
Just ask his Dad.