ST. PETERSBURG – University Academy Preparatory (UPA) had a surprise guest show up for their end of the year field day event. Philadelphia 76ers center/power forward Nerlens Noel took time out of his training schedule to drop by and encourage the middle schoolers to exercise their minds and bodies Mon., June 2.
Known for his trademark high-top fade, Noel dropped by almost all of the classrooms to give a pep talk to the youngsters.
“My mom pushed academics before sports and that was the message I wanted to get out to the kids. Everything starts with hard work and it starts now,” said Noel.
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A week ago a UPA business partner stopped by the school to encourage the kids, and one precocious young lady asked if he could arrange for a professional athlete to show up for their field day. That seemingly hard question was answered Monday when Principal Darius Adamson escorted Noel around the campus.
“He is a very humble guy and it was wonderful the way he interacted with the kids,” said Adamson. “By the time he showed up on the field for field day, he and the kids were already old friends.”
Born to Haitian immigrants, the six-foot eleven inch Boston native decided to throw around the pigskin with some of the kids in between answering a barrage of questions.
“It really made a difference what Nerlens did for the kids. It was about hard work and that’s what they need to hear. They will remember his message 10 or 15 years from now.”
Noel, who sat out his rookie season with the 76ers, hasn’t played since tearing his anterior cruciate ligament in February 2013, during his freshman year at the University of Kentucky. He will make his NBA debut during the Orlando Summer League that starts July 5.
UPA is currently enrolling students for the 2014-15 school year. Potential parents can stop by and pick up an application for admissions in the main office, 1701 10th St. S., or complete an application online at www.upaflorida.org. Click on the Enrollment Process tab.