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Tyler Lashbrook of Orlandopinstriped.com listed the strengths and weaknesses of Kentucky’s Nerlens Noel if the Orlando Magic get the No. 1 pick in the June NBA draft.
Here’s part of what he wrote”
“I think Noel could become much like the player Joakim Noah has become in the NBA. He’s not nearly as strong as Noah and he doesn’t finish through contact like Noah, but with added strength these are things that could be developed in time. Lucky for Noel, he’s only 19 years old. He has plenty of time to add weight. He has plenty of time to develop offensively. He’ll most likely never become a dangerous low-post threat, but if he can add a high-post game at the NBA level with his already dominant defense, then he’ll be an excellent overall player for years to come.”
Lashbrook speculates that if the Magic select Noel, he “will likely sit the entire season” as Orlando focuses on young players it already has..
“2014 would be Noel’s rookie season, as the Magic would allow him to take as long as he needs to fully recover. Noel would face unreal comparisons. His two predecessors — Shaquille O’Neal and Dwight Howard — dominated in their stints in Orlando and fans will expect the same of the freshman out of Kentucky,” Lashbrook wrote.
“Still, my philosophy is that you select the best player available. And if Orlando wins the lottery and chooses to keep the pick, then Noel will be the best available player. If you’re the Magic, you worry about your minutes and your roster management later. Too much talent is a wonderful problem to have.”
Vaught’s note: Josh Kays of Bardstown covers high school basketball recruiting for Wildcat Blue Nation, but wanted to share this perspective on Nerlens Noel.
By JOSH KAYS
Nerlens Noel’s legacy will be on and off the court
Nerlens Noel came into Kentucky this season as the most heralded recruit in the 2012 class, and was being compared to Anthony Davis on the defensive end. Everybody who knew the game of basketball knew Noel could be a great college shot blocker, knew he would give 100 percent every time he put on the Kentucky jersey, and knew he would be a high lottery pick in the 2013 NBA draft. But nobody knew how much of an impact he would have off the court.
During the season Noel was always doing something within the community, and would do anything to put a smile on somebody’s face. It began with face time with Lane Goodwin — a young boy and UK fan that lost his life after battling cancer. Nerlens took time out of his busy schedule to make sure he put a smile on Lane’s face before it ended so sadly. Everybody started to see then just how special Noel is, but this past weekend took it to another level, and it showed everybody that this wasn’t an act that Noel was putting on. He is truly a big hearted guy.
Nerlens wasn’t in attendance for the Kentucky Oaks on Friday because he was visiting sick children at Kosair Children’s hospital. But he was in attendance at the Brown Stable Barn Party that night. Noel had his long time best friend and 2014 recruit Goodluck Okonoboh along with him for the night, but told KSTV that he was going to have a guest from the hospital as his guest for the Derby on Saturday.
If you are a part of the Big Blue Nation you have heard of “Kickin it for Kelly.” It’s a foundation for 7-year-old Kelly Melton, who is battling Leukemia. Kelly is a huge Kentucky football, and basketball fan that comes to games/practices when he can. Nerlens knew about Kelly before this weekend, but it just so happened that Kelly was doing his treatments at Kosair the same day Noel came to visit. Kelly is a very uplifting and inspiring kid that doesn’t let this sickness get him down, kind of the same mentality Noel had after a season ending knee injury.
Kelly got to join Nerlens on Derby day as his guest, and was styling just like his idol was. Noel and his friend Okonoboh took very good care of Kelly during the day, and he even got to walk down the red carpet with Nerlens and company. I can’t imagine the feeling that Kelly had on that special day, but I know for me that was one of the happiest moments in my lifetime of being a Kentucky fan.
Nerlens was a great player on the court, and will be remembered for his hustle and shot blocking ability he presented for Kentucky every game until the injury. But I think Noel’s legacy will be what he has done off the court while being in Lexington.
Noel will go down as one of my favorite players to ever put on a Kentucky jersey, and I am glad he spent his year in college at the University of Kentucky. Thank you for everything Nerlens. You will always be a Cat!
Vaught’s note: Kelly Melton is a 7-year-old youngster from Science Hill, an a Kentucky fan, who has been diagnosed with leukemia. Vaughtsviews.com follower Ariel Calahan says he calls her”my bestie” and has been a family friend since Kelly was born and says “I consider him my little brother I never had.” She shares his story today and how so many UK athletes have taken time to be part of his life and what that has meant to him.
By ARIEL CALAHAN
I was there the day Kelly was diagnosed with Leukemia. Waiting with the family to find out what was going to happen next. We waited over four hours to be transported to UK Children’s Hospital in Lexington. That is an hour and a half away from where we live. Kelly had no clue what was going on at this point. All he knew was he was being taken to another hospital and as far as he knew he just had a bad ear ache, which is why he went to the doctor in the first place. They loaded him in the ambulance around 11 p.m.. We all went to tell him by and the words outta his mouth were, “I got Skittles in my socks!” His smile never left his face!
Once he got to UK Children’s Hospital. they started chemo immediately. He wasn’t allowed visitors at first because they were worried he would catch something which would make it harder for the chemo to take effect. He was in the hospital for 48 long days. Within those 48 days he really only saw his mom. His dad was there at the start, but he had to get back to work. His two brothers and sister hardly saw him. Maybe a couple times they got to go up and see him. I personally was there as much as possible! I did everything to make sure he never lost his smile, and those who know Kelly knows he always had a smile on his face!
Sometimes it would just be me who went up and sat in the bed playing Legos or a Wii game with Kelly. Other times I would take my friend up with me and we would both play games and just make him happy doing whatever he wanted! He didn’t really get out of bed much the first 48 days. He was tired and had no energy to do anything. One day his parents asked me if I would start a page for him on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/Kickinit4Kelly) and Twitter (@Kickinit4Kelly) so family and friends could know what was going on because they couldn’t call everyone and let them all know. To this day Kelly has 1,488 likes on Facebook and 3,243 followers on Twitter. People posting on his wall or tweeting him made for a great day when I would go up and let him see them. Of course, we read them to him because he is only in first grade and he is learning to read these bigger words in the hospital and at home right now!
Towards the end of the 48-day stay I sent a DM (direct message) on twitter to Martavius Neloms (former UK safety/CB) asking if he could come visit Kelly. He came back saying he would love to visit Kelly and asked if he could bring a few others with him. Christian Coleman (UK DT) had asked if he could come visit Kelly and of course we said yes. When the day came, Christian had brought Kelly a UK sock monkey and signed it for him. Mr. Socky hung on Kelly’s chemo bag.
Martavius, also known as Tay to Kelly, came and brought along Jonathan George (UK RB), Ashely Lowery (UK Safety), and Marcus Caffey (former UK CB). So there was five UK football players, Kelly, Kelly’s parents, my father and myself squished in a tiny hospital room, but we made it work and Kelly loved them the moment they walked in! Those boys were nothing but kind to Kelly and the rest of us. They all signed Kelly’s UK shirt he was wearing at the time! They stay for about two hours. The moment they left, Kelly said “that was awesome!”
Kelly got to go home for Thanksgiving, but got a temperature and had to go back the hospital. He was home for about three days. He was then in the hospital for 20-day stay. A lot of just little random things had happened throughout this stay, but the one that sticks out is when Martavius and Jonathan came back to spend another day with Kelly. Kelly had called me telling me that they came back to see him and I missed it! But don’t worry they still had a lot of fun!
Martavius also got Kelly a #1 UK football jersey and signed it for him for Christmas. Kelly was so excited when he gave it to him! Martavius was heading home for Christmas break after that visit and Kelly was so upset because he wouldn’t be able to see him until he got back. We went a long time waiting for Martavius to come back because he headed to training camps. But when he got back to Lexington, sure enough he came by to let Kelly know! Christian also got Kelly a Star Wars Lego set and a UK draw string back pack with his number on it for Christmas! Kelly loves Star Wars and Legos, so put those together and Christian was just right on track! Kelly takes the backpack to the hospital with all his Legos in it.
Martavius and Christian had come back to see Kelly and the others would check up on him via Twitter. Then one random day, it was late at night and normally Kelly doesn’t sleep to well, I got a message from Kelly’s mom. I wasn’t thinking of anything when she said, “Kelly is wide awake, will talk soon.” It was almost midnight when I received a text from a number which I didn’t know. But within the message was a picture of Kelly and Nerlens Noel (former UK basketball player). We thought it was amazing that he would come visit Kelly. After the visit Kelly would ask us all the time about his friend Nerlens.
We didn’t tell Kelly that he probably wouldn’t see him again. We all assumed it was a one-time thing. But boy were we wrong. About a month after the visit I got a message from the number which I didn’t know asking me how Kelly was. I told them and they came back with, “Can we visit him today?” So Kelly had yet another visit with his friend Nerlens. Kelly loved him visiting. They would just sit around and talk about everything and anything.
Kelly is a big football fan and a big UK fan so you put those together and he is a huge UK football fan. I thought it would be great if he could go to the Spring Game with me, which I had got tickets for right when they went on sale. We asked the doctors and they cleared it saying he could go! I had told Christian about it and he said I will get back with you. I had no clue what that meant. But he had talked to Coach Stoops and they got it to where Kelly could be on the sidelines during the game. Coach Stoops also came to visit Kelly in the hospital the week before the game! He gave him a UK football, which he signed for him. We did not tell Kelly anything until the day of and we were at the stadium. Kelly and the rest of us got a tour of the locker room and much more. Kelly got to run the practice field and go into the locker room before the game. He had a smile on his face the whole day! He also got the game ball at the end. Coach Stoops and all the players and all the other coaches made sure that day was all about Kelly and super special.
After the game we were posting the pictures on Facebook and Twitter when Landon Foster (UK Kicker/Punter) saw one of him and said he would love to visit Kelly in the hospital. I told him to come on over and he brought along Max Strong (UK Kicker) and Kelly Mason (UK long snapper). I had bought Kelly a new Lego set because Landon had told me how great a Lego builder he was! So all four of them sat in the hospital room building this Lego set! They were all so wild and crazy that day, playing random games and shooting each other with the missiles on the Lego set. It was just a great day in general. They ended up staying for four hours. Landon had given Kelly his cleats from last season and signed them for him. They had told me after that they really wasn’t expecting to have as much fun as they really did and that they would definitely be back soon to continue the war they started!
Two weeks ago while Kelly was in the hospital getting his chemo, I had got a message from Nerlens’ friend asking how Kelly was doing and if they could come visit again. Of course we made sure they got to visit before Kelly came home. Kelly and Nerlens compared their scars and Kelly was in shock how big Nerlens scar was! So he won the biggest scar.
Kelly got out of the hospital that night and went over to their house where they gave him a UK basketball signed by Nerlens. Most people saw an interview which Nerlens had done. Somehow we missed it, but wonderful followers on Twitter made sure we saw it. Nerlens talked about Kelly saying he “loved him like his little brother”. This is so true. I had met up with Nerlens’ friend to give him something when he mentioned a possibility of Kelly being able to go the Derby with Nerlens. At that moment we didn’t know if anything was official so we kept it between us. The next day he called me saying Nerlens really would like Kelly to go with him. We worked it out and found a way for Kelly to be able to go. Kelly spent the day with Nerlens and a couple of his friends. All five of them treated Kelly like he was a prince. They were all sweet and caring about him. Kelly was in heaven when he was told to go wake Nerlens up! Those boys took Kelly under their wings to make sure he had a great time!
Having this all these guys caring so much about Kelly and doing anything possible to make sure he is smiling and happy means everything to me and his family. I see a difference in Kelly when the guys are around. He is free to be himself, not that he isn’t all the time, but when you’re stuck in a hospital room and only seeing the same people over and over it gets crazy! So when they come to visit you can tell his levels boosted up.
He doesn’t see them as famous people like a lot of people do. He gets asked all the time how it feels to be around them and he will say “it’s like how I’m around you”. He calls them his best friends. When he finds out any of them are coming he gets the high pitch squirmy squeal. That’s how you know he is excited!
As for the guys who do come to visit him, Martavius had once said, “I never knew my best friend would be 7 years old”. Nerlens considers Kelly his little brother. The other guys are always saying how they love visiting Kelly after class because it gives them something to look forward too! You can tell when they are in the room with Kelly that Kelly means everything to them. They do everything and anything for him. These are relationships they will have the rest their lives.
Martavius and Christian have been with Kelly pretty much from the start. When either one would find out Kelly was having a rough day while in the hospital they would find a way to come see him. I remember texting Martavius one day saying Kelly was having a rough day. He wouldn’t talk to any of us. Martavius replied with, “I’m on my way.” He walked in and Kelly’s face lit up. Christian would come over after class just to drop by and say hey. Both these guys mean the world to Kelly and the family. We want to thank them for all they have for and continue to do for Kelly!
By LARRY VAUGHT
Who will take Nerlens Noel in the NBA draft? According to Adam Zagoria of Zag’sBlog.com it won’t be Orlando or Magic, two teams that could have the No. 1 pick.
This is what Zagorita posted about the Magic and Hornets likely trading the top pick if they have it — and it makes perfect sense.
“The Orlando Magic and New Orleans Hornets would both strongly consider trading the rights to the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft, according to SheridanHoops.com. Sources around the NBA have told SheridanHoops that if the Orlando Magic or New Orleans Hornets win the lottery, they both would be strongly inclined to trade the pick to whichever fellow lottery team wants to pay the most for the right to draft Nerlens Noel.
“The caveat for Orlando is that it does not want to lose out on Ben McLemore of Kansas, whom it covets the most, or Trey Burke/Victor Oladipo as a fallback. And it’s not that the Magic don’t like Noel. Rather, they don’t need him, already in possession of a top-tier NBA center on a rookie contract in two-year veteran Nikola Vucevic. Same with the Hornets and Anthony Davis.
“The 2013 NBA draft lacks elite prospects of years past such as Davis, Kyrie Irving or Blake Griffin, clear top picks regardless of who won the lottery. This year, Noel is the player atop the majority of draft boards but not quite on the same level as those other sure things.”
NBADraftblog.com’s Ed Isaacson correctly predicted that two of Kentucky’s freshmen (Archie Goodwin and Nerlens Noel) would put their name into the NBA draft and two (Willie Cauley-Stein and Alex Poythress) would return to UK for their sophomore seasons. Now he’s had a chance to watch Kentucky coach John Calipari’s next No. 1 recruiting class that includes six McDonald’s All-Americans and he offers his insights on those players and their futures.
Question: Which of Calipari’s newest players has the most work to do before he can reach the next level and which one perhaps has the most untapped potential?
Isaacson: “Marcus Lee has the most work to do, but you can see by the raw ability and athleticism why many are high on him. As for untapped potential, Lee is there, as well Dakari Johnson. Johnson has a lot of the physical tools you want, but he relies on the physical way too much right now. He has to put a lot of work into the skill part of his game.”
Question: Can all six of the McDonald’s All-American signees thrive on the same team?
Isaacson: “I don’t know if all six will ‘thrive,’ but in the best case scenario they all get better. The reality is there won’t be enough minutes for every one of the freshman to get exactly what they need to get better, but there will be enough for all to take some steps in the right direction.
Question: How good is Andrew Wiggins and could you see him fitting in well with the six UK commits if he decides to also sign with Kentucky?
Isaacson: “Wiggins is a very good player who still has plenty of room to keep getting better. I think Wiggins has the demeanor and attitude that he can fit in easily with whatever group of players surround him. If he heads to Kentucky, I would actually see him having few problems. He is versatile and can find ways to make an impact from a variety of spots on the floor.”
By LARRY VAUGHT
NBADraftblog.com’s Ed Isaacson correctly predicted that two of Kentucky’s freshmen (Archie Goodwin and Nerlens Noel) would put their name into the NBA draft and two (Willie Cauley-Stein and Alex Poythress) would return to UK for their sophomore seasons.
Now he’s had a chance to watch Kentucky coach John Calipari’s next No. 1 recruiting class that includes six McDonald’s All-Americans and he offers his insights on those players and their futures.
Question: Could you just give me your impressions of each future Wildcat?
Isaacson: “Julius Randle: Skilled with good size, he can create matchup problems in different spots on the court.
“Andrew Harrison: Love the size at the point guard position, let’s him see the court and options easily. Has shown comfort in both the halfcourt and transition, but he needs to make better decisions with the ball at the college level.
“Aaron Harrison: Though Andrew is known as the point guard and Aaron as the shooter, their games are very similar. Aaron has the ability to hit the open jumper, but has shown that he can create off the dribble and sees the floor well.
“James Young: Needs to get stronger, but likes to attack the basket and he is very good finishing around the basket.
“Dakari Johnson: A physical post player, he uses his body well to create space and looks to finish strong around the basket. Footwork still needs to improve, as well as understanding how to defend in the post.
“Marcus Lee: Athletic and raw. Needs to get stronger, but his leaping ability makes him a threat around the rim on both offense and defense.”
Question: Is it too early to for folks to be talking about Andrew Harrison and Julius Randle both being potential top 10 picks in 2014?
Isaacson: “Is it too early, absolutely, but that won’t stop it from happening. If both make the same progression their freshman year that they did during their high school years, it is a legitimate possibility.
Question: Are all six of these guys future NBA players?
Isaacson: “I will say all six have potential to be future NBA players, but if there is anything we have learned by now, is that you can’t tell how things will play out once they get to college.”
Saturday: More with Isaacson on which new player has the most untapped potential, how the super six can thrive on the same team and how Andrew Wiggins might fit at UK.
By LARRY VAUGHT
For one of the pre-draft insights on Nerlens Noel, let’s turn to DraftExpress.com writer Jonathan Givony.
Here is part of his analysis on Noel, who most expect to be the No. 1 pick and give coach John Calipari three No. 1 overall picks in the last four years:
“One area where Noel might have more potential than he showed at Kentucky is with his ability to attack his man off the dribble from the high post. He possesses an extremely quick first step driving to his left, allowing him to be isolated against slower big men from 15 to 17 feet away and draw fouls. While the poor spacing of college basketball offenses (and especially Kentucky’s with their extreme lack of perimeter shooting) didn’t allow him to do this very often, it could very well be something he can build on in the future.
“Noel didn’t show any real semblance of a jump-shot in his time at Kentucky, and considering the poor touch he displays from different parts of the floor and his 53 percent conversion rate from the free throw line, that’s probably not a fluke. He’ll likely have to work very hard to add a mid-range jumper to his arsenal, which is a shot he could definitely use considering his limitations as a post scorer.
“As raw as Noel looked at times offensively as a freshman, he was absolutely a game-changer for Kentucky on the other end of the floor. This was his reputation coming out of high school, and he did nothing to discourage that from what he showed this season.”
See more of what Givony had to say about Noel at http://www.draftexpress.com/profile/Nerlens-Noel-6455/
By LARRY VAUGHT
Nerlens Noel is headed to the NBA, and could be the No. 1 pick in the June draft, but he thinks Kentucky has a rising star for next year in center Willie Cauley-Stein.
“Another year, Willie can be one of the best big men in the country, definitely. I’m sure he will be. Willie is a freak athlete. He’s 7-foot, he’s fast, quick, he has all the intangibles to be great,” said Noel. “Next year, I’m sure he’s going to dominate the collegiate rankings and move on to bigger and better things.”
Cauley-Stein was the last heralded member of UK’s 2012 recruiting class but was ranked as the nation’s 10th best high school center by Scout.com and sixth best by Rivals.com. He was a consensus top 40 player even though he also played football where he caught 57 passes for 1,140 yards and 14 touchdowns as a senior.
Noel said he saw tremendous improvement in his classmate’s play.
“He’s made so much progress in his game, and just even mentally. Early on Willie wasn’t too sure about things, but as the season went on he’s gotten so much more confident and just so sure of himself that there were just times in practice where he just dominated,” Noel said. “You’d see flashes. Willie’s come a very long way, physically and mentally, and he’s really come into his own as a player.”
Cauley-Stein averaged 8.3 points and 6.2 rebounds per game in 29 games last season — he missed four after needing minor knee surgery during the season. He blocked 60 shots. He hit 62.1 percent from the field, but only made 37.2 percent (32 of 86) of his free throws.
He says he’s going to be a far different player as a sophomore for coach John Calipari.
“The intensity. It’s different if you make it different. It could easily be the same where you come in here and you don’t work as hard but the thing is, I don’t think Cal is going to let that happen,” Cauley-Stein said. “And those guys coming back aren’t going to let that happen just because of how we finished — you can’t leave off that.
“I feel very comfortable stepping into a leader role. I already feel different. Once the season ended, it was kind of like my whole mentality changed instantly. I wish it would have changed before the tournament happened. I got kind of like a dominating mindset kind of going into this next year. I want to be the best in everything I do. Before I was kind of like, ‘Ehh… This time I want to come in and do it. I don’t want to try to do it.’”
He has specific changes in mind to become a better all-around player.
“A guy that can step out and shoot 3’s, hit the 15-footer, take people off the dribble, just becoming more of a complete dude, and not just a guy that’s going to stay in the paint,” Cauley-Stein said. “That’s not the way I wanted to play coming in. It just ended up being like that (last season).”
Kentucky will be adding six McDonald’s All-Americans to the roster, including frontcourt players Julius Randle, Marcus Lee and Dakari Johnson to go with Cauley-Stein, Alex Poythress and Kyle Wiltjer. Cauley-Stein said he will help make sure the newcomers understand what it takes to win.
“I think the biggest thing I took from all that is that you’ve got to know from the get-go that it’s real. We started off really good and we went those couple games where we lost those two games in a row and it was like, ‘Wow. We’re really not as good as we thought we were,’” Cauley-Stein said. “And that’s the biggest thing. Every game you play — it’s hype. It’s a Super Bowl for everyone. I think that’s the biggest thing for the freshmen coming in is that you have no time to relax when you step in between those lines. It’s all business when you step in there.”
“Everything we do has got to be a win or lose. Everything we have to do has got to have a consequence if you lose, and if you win, you get praise for it. You get that kind of feel like, ‘Oh, if I win, you get special treatment.’ If you lose, you’re doing something you don’t want to do. That’s the way it’s got to be coming into it. That’s what’s going to create that dog in you to try to go out and just kill somebody.”
He hopes having experienced players returning — something last year’s NIT team was missing — will pay off.
“I think that’s exactly what we missed this year is a guy that played a lot of minutes his freshman year that decided to come back and take on the role of a leader,” Cauley-Stein said. “We didn’t have that this year. Kyle was that kind of guy but he still didn’t play big minutes his freshman year. This year, we’ve got three guys including J.P. (Jarrod Polson) that were playing almost 30 minutes a game. That coming back is going to help tremendously.”
By LARRY VAUGHT
Nerlens Noel talked about a variety of things Tuesday during what was likely his last interview at Kentucky but the first answer says a lot about what everyone should remember about his limited time with the Wildcats.
Question: Does he have any regrets about the play he was injured on since UK was behind and he could have just let the player score?
Noel: “No way. We wasn’t down too much. Regardless of the score,I wasn’t going to let him get that easy basket. That’s just who I am. I will not be embarrassed in any type of way. I will not give them an easy basket. I just wanted to keep fighting and give my team the best chance of getting back in fighting position to win that game.”
Question: How much attention does he play to NBA mock drafts?
Noel: “I don’t really pay attention to those at all. I just stay focused on my physical therapy, stay focused and keep my mind right.”
Question: What would it mean to be drafted No. 1?
Noel: “It would be a dream come true being the first pick in the NBA Draft. That’s something you dream about from when you’re a kid. I’d be very blessed to be in that position and just very appreciative of it.”
Question: Did he worry he might not be able to be No. 1 after his injury?
Noel: “A lot goes through your head. When it first happens, you don’t know what the injury is, you don’t know if you’ll ever play basketball again or if you’ll be playing a month from now. When I heard what the injury was, I knew no matter what I’d get back on the court as fast as I could and just get back to what I love doing.”
Question: What has he heard about his draft status?
Noel: “I don’t hear anything. That isn’t a priority, to just listen to what they say. I’m my own player, and I’ve just got to work on getting better and getting stronger, getting my leg stronger, and get right back on that court.”
Question: How difficult was it to watch UK after he was hurt?
Noel: “It was real tough, just watching them guys play and just knowing I could help them in so many ways. But I’m proud of them guys. They played as hard as they could. They fought, they beat two of the best teams in the league without me, so, I mean, you can’t underestimate those guys. They played hard. Things just didn’t roll their way sometimes on the road. I love them guys. They played their hearts out, so I’ll always be proud of them, no matter what.”
Question: What did the injury teach him about how quickly life can change?
Noel: “You’ve got to go out there an play hard every day. You can’t take it for granted. You’ve got to cherish the game you love and play. I felt like that’s what I did, but things like this happen. You’re a human being, you’re going to get hurt sometimes. You’ve just got to stay focused and be ready to just fight and get back doing what you love.”
Question: What time frame has he been given about when he can get on the court again?
Noel: “They’re just taking it step-by-step. It’s a six-to-eight month injury. I got surgery six weeks ago, so it will probably be around Christmas time or something. You never know. It’s a long healing process. I’m just staying focused and just doing my rehab until I can.”
Question: Did spending a year in college help him?
Noel: “It benefitted me a lot, especially playing here under coach Calipari and the coaching staff. There’s no pushovers here. They want you to be the best you can be and they don’t accept nothing less. Coach Cal has taught me so much on and off the court, how to be a good person and just really know how to have a good work ethic. He made us love to work and (taught use how to) carry yourself. Just a lot of life lessons that not any regular coach would teach you about off the court.”
Question: Does he wish the system was different and he could spend more time in college?
Noel: “Nah. I loved this year, though. This was one of the best experiences of my life being here at Kentucky this year. Regardless if you have to stay three, four years, these are the best times of your life, whether it’s one or four years, regardless.”
Question: Should players be able to go pro out of high school rather than risk an injury like the one he had?
Noel: It’s a lot of politics. I don’t really get into that. Both sides have a reasonable reason for it, why they would want to go out of high school or why they should do a year of college or two. But I don’t get into that too much. I just do what I got to do, what I have to do. I have to come to school for a year, I’m going to do it.”
Question: Does he worry about not being ready for the start of next season?
Noel: “I’m taking strides. If I’m not ready, I’m not ready. If I’m ready, I’m ready. The main focus right now is just keep working so I can be ready when my physical therapist tells me I am. You just take it one step at a time. Today is the six-week point (after his surgery). I’m doing everything out of the brace now, all my exercises. That says I’m ahead of schedule. I’ve got a lot of muscle back into my leg. But it takes a while for the graft to heal and get in tune with the body and the nerve system. But I’m taking it slow. I’m doing a lot of strength exercises and mobility.”
Question: Since he’s injured, what will the pre-draft process be like for him?
Noel: “The combine was on TV last year, so I’ve seen it. I’ve seen what the actual players will do. But going in with an injury like I have, I’m not sure I’ll be able to do too much besides get checked out by the doctors, maybe shoot some free throws, talk to GMs (general managers) and what not. But besides that, I don’t think I’ll be doing too much.”
By LARRY VAUGHT
Kentucky freshman Nerlens Noel said his injured knee is “doing good” and that his physical therapist tells him he’s ahead of schedule recovering from the torn anterior cruciate ligament he suffered in UK’s loss at Florida Feb. 12 that ended his season — and college career since he’s put his name into the NBA draft.
Noel said he is trying to “take things slow” as he focuses on his therapy but being patient has not been easy.
“It’s hard to be patient, especially during the season seeing my teammates out there playing and just wishing I was out there playing with them. There is nothing you can really do now, just stay focused on physical therapy and make sure I give it 100 percent,” said Noel.
Noel averaged 10.5 points and 9.6 rebounds per game before he was hurt and had 106 blocked shots in 24 games. He was named the Southeastern Conference defensive player of the year as well as a freshman All-American by the United States Basketball Writers Association.
He even admitted Tuesday that he considered returning to UK for his sophomore season to play for coach John Calipari in part because of the UK fans.
“Yeah, there was a consideration of coming back but anybody that gets injured you’re probably going to have considerations about coming back. But I sat down with my family and they saw the extent of my injury and they thought it wasn’t going to affect me too much in the draft, so I’ve been tackling the rehab and my family and my decision was the best for me,” he said.
“I loved playing here. It’s one of the best experiences of my life. Great fans. Great atmosphere. Playing in Rupp Arena felt like a once in a lifetime thing, like I’d never get to do that again. It was a hard decision. I love the Big Blue Nation and coach Cal . That was one of the best things to do here.”
He also knows how talented UK’s incoming recruiting class is since he was originally part of the 2013 class before reclassifying so he could play in college last season.
“I played with a lot of those guys when I was in their class, before I reclassified, and I know how good they are. That would have been a real special team if I had stayed,” he said. “Those are great kids and they’re going to have a great team next year, even Alex (Poythress) and Willie (Cauley-Stein) coming back will give them good leadership like Terrence Jones and Doron Lamb did (for UK’s national title team). That was the key players they needed to win that championship, so I feel like they’ll be very good next year.”