Former Wildcat Center Noel's Rehab Going Well
LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Former Kentucky center Nerlens Noel's injured knee is progressing well and he's looking forward to playing again "as soon as possible."
The 6-foot-10 Noel is recovering from a torn left anterior cruciate ligament, though that didn't prevent the Philadelphia 76ers from acquiring the sixth overall pick by the New Orleans Pelicans in last month's NBA draft.
"The knee feels great," said Noel, who had surgery on March 12 and is in the midst of rehabilitation period expected to last six to eight months.
"I'm just definitely staying after it, working hard, staying focused. As opposed to a timetable, I'm just (focused) on being careful, staying patient. I definitely want to come back a lot stronger than I was before."
Another former Wildcat, Archie Goodwin, is looking to make a more immediate impact in the NBA. He had an impressive performance in his first action, helping the Phoenix Suns win the NBA Summer League title after the 29th overall selection's pro potential was questioned before the draft.
Noel, Goodwin and fellow former Wildcats Julius Mays and Twany Beckham were back on campus Monday assisting Kentucky coach John Calipari's pro camp for youth players.
Noel doesn't figure to be an active participant in Calipari's weeklong camp. But judging from his slow but smooth walk around Memorial Coliseum with his left leg wrapped, his recovery appears to be on track.
He doesn't feel rushed to return and prove he should have been drafted higher. Noel said he has been working out six hours daily and is prepared to follow doctors' orders about his recovery and return, whenever that is.
Projected as a lottery pick before he arrived on Kentucky's campus last year as the nation's top high school recruit, the Everett, Mass., native, remained high on many draft boards despite the February knee injury and long recovery. He was considered a possible No. 1 pick, so it was somewhat surprising when he fell several spots on draft night before the Pelicans chose him and eventually traded him to Philadelphia along with a 2014 first round pick.
Already motivated to come back from the injury, Noel said his slide down the draft order has merely provided more incentive to return.
"It's something to wake up (to) in the morning and just keep me going," said Noel, who led the nation with 4.4 blocks per game and averaged 10.5 points and 9.5 rebounds per contest. "It definitely will put fluid to my fire and wanting to get back and show teams what I'm capable of when I get back."
As Noel prepares for his chance to prove his NBA worth, Goodwin looks to build off a surprising effort in the summer league in which he played like somebody with something to prove.
There were doubts about Goodwin after he joined Noel in the draft pool following an inconsistent freshman season with the Wildcats. The Oklahoma City Thunder nonetheless took him late in the first round before trading him to the Golden State Warriors, who then shipped him to the Phoenix Suns that night.
Goodwin went on to lead the Suns to the NBA summer league title in competition against fellow rookies and second-year players. In seven games he averaged 13.1 points and shot 50% from the field but impressed many with his explosiveness and willingness to draw contact.
Other parts of his game remain a work in progress, but the 6-foot-5, Little Rock, Ark., native believes his performance suggests what he's capable of providing for the rebuilding Suns.
"I knew that people would have negative things to say just because of the way our season went," said Goodwin, Kentucky's leading scorer last season at 14.1 points per game. "But at the end of the day I knew what I was capable of, I knew what I was going to do. I control my own fate and just continue to work hard and block out what people are saying."
Goodwin added that Suns coach Jeff Hornacek has indicated that he will be part of Phoenix's offense.
"He's telling me that I'm going to play right away. He wanted to make that clear," he said. "They were excited to get me as I was excited to be there. They said from the get-go that I was going to be a special player and be one of the better players out of this draft. I felt the same, and with my work ethic and the way I compete, I'm going to make that happen."
Mays went undrafted after transferring to Kentucky and playing last season as a fifth-year senior. But he has worked out for several NBA teams and is exploring possibilities overseas.
He said he's "got a lot of great opportunities to choose from."