Thursday, February 11, 2016

Noel surprises student awaiting kidney transplant

Nerlens Noel continues to make big assists off the basketball court.

Noel surprises student awaiting kidney transplant

Philadelphia 76ers rookie center Nerlens Noel. (Michael Perez/AP)
Philadelphia 76ers rookie center Nerlens Noel. (Michael Perez/AP)

Nerlens Noel continues to make big assists off the basketball court.

The 76ers rookie center’s latest act of kindness came Tuesday night at Byran Station High Shool in Lexington, Ky. That’s when Noel, who played one season at Kentucky, surprised Henry Clay manager Braxton Upthegrove with a special video message during halftime of a high school basketball game. Upthegrove, 16, is awaiting his second kidney transplant.

“Braxton, why don’t you and your mom come join me in just a few days to watch my team play the Miami Heat,” Noel said on the video. “Be my guest.”

Upthegrove and his mother, Michelle, will fly to Philadelphia on Thursday and attend Friday’s Heat game at the Wells Fargo Center. Noel, who has been sidelined since February’s knee injury as a Wildcat, hopes to spend   some time playing video games with Upthegrove on Thurday and Friday.

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"This is a dream come true for him," Michelle Upthegrove told WYKT News in Lexington. "There's no other way to put it."

This act of kindness is common for the 6-foot-11, 228-pounder.

While at Kentucky, Noel made frequent visits to the Kentucky Children's Hospital and several Lexington-area nursing homes. He even had a special guest with him at the Kentucky Derby in May: Kelly Melton, a 7-year-old boy battling leukemia.

His only regret is that his acts of kindness have been made public.

"I mean I'm not really with the glitz and glamour," he said. "I don't do it to be the lead story of ESPN. I'm doing it from the kindness of my heart.

"I want to be able to have that feeling that I'm definitely doing something good with my celebrity status, because that's the main thing."

Follow and contact Inquirer 76ers beat writer Keith Pompey on Twitter @PompeyOnSixers

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About this blog

Keith Pompey has been an Inquirer reporter since September 2004 and took over the Sixers beat in the summer of 2013 after covering Temple basketball and football for the previous three years.

Marc Narducci has served in a variety of roles with the Inquirer since beginning in 1983. He has covered the 76ers as a backup and a beat writer. In addition, Narducci has covered everything from the Super Bowl to the World Series and a lot in between.

Keith Pompey Staff Writer
Marc Narducci Staff Writer
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