The Philadelphia 76ers formally introduced their new star to the media during a Tuesday press conference. Despite still recovering from the torn ACL that cut short his career at the University of Kentucky, Nerlens Noel believes that he has a “high ceiling” in terms of his potential once he is able to take the court.
Philadelphia fans better hope he is right, the 76ers gave up a great deal to select him in this year’s draft. Noel was selected by the New Orleans Pelicans at sixth overall after being a near unanimous number one rated prospect prior to succumbing to his knee injury.
To bring Noel to Philadelphia, the 76ers had to trade the Pelicans All-Star guard Jrue Holliday, as well as their second round pick in the draft. The Pelicans also received a protected top five selection in next year’s draft as compensation in the deal.
A high price to pay for a rookie coming off of a devastating injury, however Sam Hinkie believes he made the right move. “Rim protectors are at a real premium in our league right now. A real premium,” he said. “Athletic players have always been at a premium. Nerlens is both. Nerlens is a guy who brings it every possession he’s on the floor, who is constantly trying to protect the rim as drivers attack and as a guy who we think will fit the style of play that we hope to play here in Philadelphia.”
Nerlens Noel was all smiles when reflecting on the deal that brought him to the 76ers. Praising General Manager Sam Hinkie, he asked “wow could you think of that? Sam (Hinkie) is just a genius to get two players that already played together and have a great relationship.”
The two players reunited by the move are Nerlens Noel and former AAU teammate and Syracuse star Michael Carter-Williams, whom the 76ers selected with the number 11 pick in the draft.
An injury to an ACL requires a long rehab process, and is something that some players are never able to come all the way back from. Nerlens Noel is not worried about how he will recover from the knee injury, and believes that his potential still has the same “high ceiling” that it had when he was projected to be the top pick in the draft beforehand.
He added that “I think I can get better in every part of my game. I want to keep pushing so I can be a complete player.”
Planning to be patient in his recovery, Noel said that he does not “want to risk anything now to not have a long career here in Philadelphia. I’ll definitely do my best to bring championships and a lot of success to this city.”
The 6 foot 11 big man was named SEC Defensive Player of the Year after averaging He was named the SEC Defensive Player of the Year after averaging 10.5 points, 9.5 rebounds, 2.1 steals and leading the NCAA with 4.4 blocks as a freshman.
When asked about his slide in the draft, the 19 year old Noel admits that it hurt, but will not let it discourage him. “It’s something that’s always going to be in the back of my mind,” Noel said about his slide in the draft, “but it’s nothing like a sour feeling. It’s just more of a motivation thing. It’s going to drive me to be the great player I want to be. Being here in Philadelphia, I’m just going to keep working hard and staying focused and it’s something that’ll just make the chip on my shoulder grow that much bigger, just push me.”
We likely will have to wait until Christmas to see whether or not Noel can reach the “high ceiling” he believes he has, the talented rookie is not expected to take the court until he is fully recovered from injury. The 76ers and their fans certainly are hoping Christmas comes early so Michael Carter-Williams and Nerlens Noel can reunite as teammates as soon as possible.
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Senior Sports Editor
The Guardian Express