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Video: Noel talks about decision to turn pro, his time at UK

Nerlens Noel met with the local media Tuesday for the first time since declaring for the NBA Draft.

Noel, who toyed with returning to Kentucky because of his knee injury and next year’s recruiting class, said he is grateful for his lone year in college, albeit a short one.

“It benefited me a lot, especially playing here under Coach (John) Calipari and the coaching staff,” Noel said. “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 work and just (how) to carry yourself and just a lot of life lessons that any regular coach would not teach you about off the court.”

Check out video of Noel’s full news conference below from UK Sports Video, as well as the entire Q and A transcript. We will have a full written feature on him in just a bit.

On his knee …
“The knee’s doing good. I’ve been working hard in rehab and my physical therapist has been telling me I’m way ahead of schedule and I’m coming along very well.”

On what Dr. James Andrews has told him and whether he is communicating with NBA teams …
“Yeah, he is. He’s telling me, like he was telling me when I had the surgery, that it went very well and he was telling me to make sure I take things slow and just stay focused on physical therapy because that’s the key thing for now.”

On whether it’s hard to be patient …
“Yeah, it is hard to be patient, especially during the season just seeing my teammates out there playing and wishing I was out there playing with them. There’s nothing you can really do now. Just stay focused on physical therapy and making sure I give it a hundred percent.”

On whether returning was ever a consideration …
“There was a consideration about coming back, but anybody that gets injured you’re probably going to have a consideration and just think about it. But I sat there with my family and just saw the extent of my injury and I felt it wasn’t going to affect me too much in the draft. So I’ve definitely been tackling the rehab and my decision was probably the best decision for me I believe.”

On what made him think about returning …
“Just definitely the Big Blue Nation. I love playing here. It was one of the best experiences of my life with the great fans, the great atmosphere. Playing in Rupp Arena felt like a once-in-a-lifetime thing, like I’ll never get to do that again. It was a hard decision. I love the Big Blue Nation, I love Coach Cal and that was one of the best things to do here.”

On whether he thought about playing with UK’s incoming class …
“Yeah, I definitely did. I played with half of those guys when I was in their class before I reclassified up, and I know how good they are. They’re real goo. They’re real good kids and that would have been a real special team if I had stayed. Those are great kids though. They’re going to have a great team next year. Even Alex (Poythress) and Willie (Cauley-Stein) coming back is going to give them good leadership just like Terrence Jones and Doron Lamb did. That’s the key players they needed to win that championship, so I feel they’ll be very good next year.”

On whether he looks at mock drafts …
“No. I don’t pay attention to those at all. I just stay focused on my physical therapy and make sure I stay focused and keep my mind right.”

On what it would mean to go No. 1 …
“It’d 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 and I’d be very blessed to be in that position and very appreciative of it.”

On whether he thought going No. 1 was out when he got hurt …
“A lot goes through your head. When it first happens to you, you don’t know what the injury is. So you don’t know if you’ll never 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.”

On what he hears from the NBA …
“I don’t hear anything. That isn’t a priority to listen to what they say. I’m my own player and I got to worry on getting better and getting stronger, getting my leg stronger and get right back on the court.”

On how difficult it was to sit out …
“It was real tough. Just watching them guys play and knowing I could have helped 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 you can’t underestimate those guys. They played hard, but things just didn’t roll their way sometimes on the road. But I love them guys. They played their hearts out so I’ll always be proud of them no matter what.”

On how good Cauley-Stein could be in another year …
“Another year, Willie could be one of the better big man in the country, definitely. I’m sure he will be. Willie, he’s a freak athlete: 7 foot, fast, strong, quick and he has all the intangibles to be great. Next year I’m sure he’s going to dominate the collegiate ranks and move on to bigger and better things.”

On how much Cauley-Stein evolved over the past year …
“A lot, a lot. He’s made so much progress in his game, 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 was just times in practice that he just dominated and you’d see flashes. Willie’s come a very long way physically and mentally and he’s really coming into his own as a player.”

On what the play where he got injured told him about how quickly things can change …
“You got to go out there and play hard every day. You can’t take it for granted. You got to cherish the game you love and play. I felt that’s what I did. But things like this happen. You’re a human being, you’re going to get hurt sometimes. But you got to stay focused and be ready to just fight and get back to doing what you love.”

On what happened to cause the injury …
“I don’t really want to recollect that. It’s over. That’s not what I’m really thinking about. I’m thinking about moving forward and just getting back on the court.”

On what he has been told about when he can return …
“They’re just taking it step by step. It’s a six-to-eight month injury, so I got surgery six weeks ago so it’ll probably be around Christmastime or something. But you never know. It’s a long healing process and I’m just staying focused and doing my rehab.”

On the Boston bombing …
“That definitely affected me. Just growing up in that city, born and raised, and to see that happen, you just can’t think of a human being that could do that to people running in the Boston Marathon from all over the country. It’s Patriots Day and everybody is out there having fun and enjoying themselves for something that they’ve prepared so long for. That was a very tragic happening and just seeing it on TV. That was the same day I declared, but that wasn’t even on my mind the rest of the day. It was just me sending my prayers out for everybody that was affected by that.”

On watching all the coverage of the Boston bombings …
“Yeah, I actually woke up that morning and went to rehab. I declared that same morning, but I was in rehab and it was all over the TV. Even when I got home, I was just laying in bed looking for updates, just making sure that everyone I knew back home was OK.”

On what a year in college did for him …
“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 work and just (how) to carry yourself and just a lot of life lessons that any regular coach would not teach you about off the court.”

On whether there is any part of him that wishes the current one-and-done systems was different …
“Nah. I loved this year and it was one of the best experiences of my life being here at Kentucky this year. Regardless of if I had to stay three, four years, these are the best times of your life whether it’s one or four years.”

On being the poster child for people saying you should be able to go to the pros out of high school after the injury occurred …
“It’s a lot of politics. I don’t really get into that. Both sides have reasonable reasoning for it, why they would want to go out of high school or why they should spend a year in college or two, but I don’t get into that too much. I just do what I got to do and if I have to come to school for a year, I’m going to do it.”

On whether, in hindsight, he wishes he wouldn’t have chased the Florida player down on the play that he injured his knee …
“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 though. I will not be embarrassed in any type of way. I will not give them an easy basket. I just want to keep fighting and give my team the best chance of getting back in fighting position to win that game.”

On when he’ll know if he’s ready …
“I’m taking it in stride. If I’m not ready, I’m not ready. If I’m ready, I’m ready. The main focus right now is just to keep working so I can be ready when my physical therapist tells me I am. Just taking it one step at a time.”

On where he’s at in his rehab …
“Today is the six-week point (since surgery). I’m doing everything out of the brace now, all my exercises. That tells me I’m ahead of schedule, and I’ve built a lot of muscle back in my leg. It takes awhile for the graph to heal and to get into with the body and the nerve system. I’m taking it slow. I’m doing a lot of strength exercises and agility.”

On why doing community service and helping people out was important to him …
“Because God blessed me. God blessed me with my God-given talents. It wasn’t too long ago when I was one of them little kids that looked up to somebody as a role model. When I would see someone that I looked up to, I wouldn’t mind if he said hi to me or came to visit me. That’s the way I look at it and try to give back to the kids that aren’t as fortunate as myself. Anything to make a kid smile or make their day better that’s going through a tough time in their life whether it’s through cancer or leukemia or anything that’s life threatening or just really anything that makes them feel down or anything, I just want to do my best to give back to them.”

On what the pre-draft process will be like for him since he can’t participate in most physical activities …
“The combine was on TV last year so I’ve seen it and what the actual players do, but going in with the injury like I have, I’m not sure I’ll be able to do too much besides getting checked out by the doctors or maybe shoot some free throws and just talk to GMs or whatnot. Besides that, I don’t think I’ll be doing too much.”

On becoming a businessman as a young man …
“I feel I’m ready for that part of my life where it’s going to have a business side, but I’ll always be a basketball player first. You always got to take care of the business on the court first before anything with business because that’s where it starts and that’s what I love to do. Without the game of basketball, I wouldn’t be who I am today.”

On how much the Kentucky experience and Calipari prepared him to become a future millionaire and how to handle his money …
“I don’t think there’s another coach in the country that can prepare us like Coach Cal does. He gives us so much insight on things and just really how to manage things in life on and off the basketball court. This year he’s taught me so much that I never even really thought I could learn in just one year in college. That’s why he is who he is and why he gets the players he gets because he’s one of the realest coaches. He’ll never lie to you. He’ll just tell you how it is. I love Coach Cal and I appreciate everything he’s done for me here at the University of Kentucky.”