If the Cleveland Cavaliers decide to select Nerlens Noel with the first overall pick in the 2013 NBA draft, the 19-year-old center shouldn't have any trouble dealing with the intense pressure and lofty expectations associated with being the top pick. This would be nothing new.

In high school, Noel was ranked the top prospect in the 2012 recruiting class, dubbed the next great center and compared to NBA legend Bill Russell. He decided to attend Kentucky for his lone collegiate season, even though they were the reigning national champions and he would be filling the large shoes of Anthony Davis, who had just been the top pick in the 2012 NBA draft. Noel could have attended one of the other schools he considered, such as Georgetown or Syracuse, but he was fine with the situation.

"I'm not dodging the pressure," Noel told USA TODAY Sports last June. "If I tried to dodge it, I wouldn't feel good about myself. This opportunity gives me a chance to establish myself as a great player rather than just a good player. It's a lot of pressure but that's something I live for."

At Kentucky, Noel averaged 10.5 points on 59% shooting 9.5 rebounds and 4.4 blocks in 24 games. He tore the anterior cruciate ligament of his left knee on February 12, but he showed glimpses of greatness when he was healthy. He blocked 13.2% of opponents' shots and for much of the year was on pace to break Davis' NCAA record for most blocks in a season. The freshman performed well under pressure and thinks it prepared him for the next chapter of his life.

"At the beginning of the season at Kentucky, I definitely felt pressure coming in with them," Noel said. "I definitely feel that will help me a lot in this process. It made me have a whole different attitude. I'm used to it now, more than I was last year."

Most scouts felt Noel had the most potential of any draft prospect before he was hurt, and when it happened, his stock didn't drop much. Cleveland picked a center, Tyler Zeller, in the first round of last year's draft, but 23-year-old Zeller doesn't have Noel's upside. Noel just turned 19 in April and is one of the few players in this class who could eventually become a star player. When Noel is asked if he can become one the league's best players, there's no hesitation.

"I definitely feel that way," Noel said. "I know it will take a lot of work, but I definitely want to put the time and work in to be one of the top players in the NBA. That's a dream come true and I'll definitely take advantage of it so I definitely feel that I can become one of them and reach my full potential."