Nerlens Noel: ‘No excuse’ not to progress
by Alex Kennedy, USA TODAY Sports
As Nerlens Noel arrives at the JW Marriott in Chicago, a rush of excitement comes over the hotel lobby. The big man with a high-top fade steps out of a car, and he’s swarmed almost immediately.
Autograph seekers who were camped out near the revolving doors for most of the day sprint in Noel’s direction with pens extended. News reporters make their way over to the entrance to mingle with him. Representatives from a trading card company cut him off, hoping to sign him to an exclusive card deal worth thousands of dollars. After several minutes, Noel’s former Kentucky teammate Archie Goodwin spots him from across the room, makes his way over for a bearhug and pulls him away.
All of this occurred before Noel had a chance to check in or put down his bags. That’s the life of the likely No. 1 overall draft pick. Everyone wants a piece of him.
Over the last few years, Noel went from being a shy high school kid who openly rooted for the Boston Celtics to being a household name and projected NBA star. Noel, who turned 19 in April, has gotten used to the new lifestyle and increased attention.
“I definitely feel that I’m handling it well,” Noel says. “From high school to now, I think I’ve done a good job of getting used to it and not letting it get to my head at all. I’m just staying focused and keeping my eyes on the prize.”
The prize, of course, is hearing NBA Commissioner David Stern announce his name atop the 2013 draft. Noel has worked all his life to make it to the NBA, and it should pay off June 27. The only difference between his childhood dreams and his actual draft night might be that Noel never imagined he would be coming off of a major injury and walking gingerly as he approached the draft stage to shake Stern’s hand.
Hustling to the end
Feb. 12, Noel sprinted down the court in pursuit of Florida guard Mike Rosario, who had leaked out in transition. He had a few steps on Noel, but the big … [For more on Nerlens Noel: 'No excuse' if knee doesn't heal quickly, click here.]