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Noel says he’s ‘well ahead of schedule’

Two days after announcing he would forego his sophomore season and enter the 2013 NBA Draft, Nerlens Noel joined the Dan Patrick Show Wednesday morning for his first public interview since the big news.

Noel, as everyone knows, is recovering from surgery to repair the torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. He obviously talked about that with Patrick – he said he’s ahead of schedule – and his decision to turn pro, but the Everett, Mass., native also talked about Monday’s horrific bombings at the Boston Marathon, his favorite NBA team and players, and more.

Check out the full transcript below. Scroll down for the audio.

Dan Patrick: Where are you in the process? When do you expect to be back to 100 percent?

Nerlens Noel: I’ve been doing a lot of rehab and my physical therapist said I’m well ahead of schedule. I’m moving pretty good at the five-week point. I’m just taking it slowly and just being careful with everything, but I’m ahead of schedule so I expect to be back pretty quick.

Patrick: When did you realize how serious this was?

Noel: When I went down I was in shock, just when I went down in the Florida game. I tried to stay strong. When I got that MRI back I was pretty nervous to hear about it being an ACL, but I stayed focused and I got my mind together and really tried to stay together knowing how hard the rehab was going to be. It was all a mental thing really.

Patrick: Set the scene for the listeners. You go into to Coach (John) Calipari to talk about whether you come back or you leave.

Noel: I went into his office and he told me he’d love to have me back. It was still early on, just a couple days after the injury. He told me it was up to me and just we’d have to put it in perspective whether I drop a few picks or anything. I just stayed focused and analyzed what I had to and just really stuck to my physical therapy. Now I’m ahead of schedule and I thought I made a good decision to declare for the draft.

Nerlens Noel is projected as the No. 1 pick in the 2013 NBA Draft by ESPN and DraftExpress. (photo by Chet White, UK Athletics)

Patrick: Was there any chance of you coming back to Kentucky?

Noel: Yeah, there was, just considering how much I love playing here and just the atmosphere it had in Rupp Arena and I just love the Big Blue Nation fans. It was just a great experience and that’s something I was really thinking about coming back for. It was a really tough decision and I thought I made the best decision for myself.

Patrick: What do you think of the one-and-done rule?

Noel: The one-and-done rule? You can’t really do too much about it. It’s an NCAA and NBA thing. I don’t think too bad about it.

Patrick: Let’s say you could come out after high school or I made you stay two years at Kentucky. Which one would you have chosen?

Noel: I would probably have to say two years at Kentucky, maybe.

Patrick: Are you ready to play in the NBA?

Noel: I definitely feel so. I just bring great attitude and a good work ethic. I want to go at it on and off the court and just really contribute to any team I go to.

Patrick: Have you talked to any former Kentucky players? Who has given you the best advice on what to expect in the NBA?

Noel: Yeah, I’ve talked to a few of them. I think probably Kenny Skywalker has probably given me the best advice. He told me just physically how much of a grind it is really and how mentally focused you’ve got to be every time out.

Patrick: Did you grow up a Celtics fan?

Noel: Yeah, yeah, definitely.

Patrick: Who was your favorite player?

Noel: Kevin Garnett.

Patrick: Would you mind if the Celtics took you? You couldn’t be a Knick facing the Celtics, could you?

Noel: The Knicks?

Patrick: Yeah. Let’s just say the Knicks had an opportunity. Hypothetically, could you be a New York Knick going into the Boston Garden?

Noel: Oh shoot, there would be some animosity in there.

Patrick: How would your family react if you’re going in there against Boston and you’re wearing a Knick uniform?

Noel: I think my family would be pretty happy regardless, but they would be a little iffy about it. I would just go in there and play.

Patrick: It says you’re 6-10, but if you got your head shaved, how tall are you?

Noel: I’m 6-10 without my shoes and all that, but I think with my hair I’m 6-11, 7-foot-ish.

Patrick: Who was your inspiration for that haircut?

Noel: I would have to say Will Smith.

Patrick: On a serious note, when I saw you were from the Boston area – are you from Everett, Mass.?

Noel: Yeah, I’m from Everett, Mass.

Patrick: When you saw what happened at the Boston Marathon, what were you thinking as you watched it on TV?

Noel: I was just in shock. I just really didn’t know how someone could be able to do that. I was just really in shock and it was just a very saddening moment for me seeing that all over the TV channels knowing that that was the city that really raised me. I was just at a loss for words. That was the day I declared so that wasn’t even on my mind the rest of the day. It was just about those people. I just sent my prayers out to them.

Patrick: Before I let you go, it seems like everybody who has a knee injury, Adrian Peterson is the inspiration. How many times have you heard about Adrian Peterson and what he was able to do coming back from a knee injury far more severe than yours?

Noel: I’ve heard about it him quite a few times, just how quick and how aggressive he bounced back. The next season right after having knee surgery he had a great season with the 2,000 rushing yards. That’s the mindset I have in myself and just really getting back as soon as possible with a killer mindset, coming back as strong as possible.

Patrick: Give me the guy you can’t wait to face in the NBA.

Noel: I would have to say Kevin Garnett.

Patrick: Be careful what you ask for there.

Noel: I’m ready for it.

Patrick: He’s going to be yelling at you too. He’s not afraid to get up in someone’s face and yell at you.

Noel: I’ll get in his face too.

Patrick: Those words may come back to haunt you. Congrats, and as I said to your coach, I love the fact that, even though you got hurt on the play, it was a hustle play. Even though I thought you were going to be a one-and-done player, to hustle and play the way you played, I always appreciated watching that. So good luck with the knee, rehabbing and in the NBA.

Noel: Thank you. I appreciate it.

On a related note, with Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart returning to school, ESPN’s Chad Ford now believes Noel is a “lukewarm” favorite to go No. 1 in the June draft. Ford says that nine of the 14 teams he’s polled will take Noel with the No. 1 pick in the draft should they win the NBA lottery on May 21. Read his entire story here (ESPN Insider access only).