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Nerlens Noel’s guest at the Kentucky Derby was a 7-year-old leukemia patient

Jeff Eisenberg
The Dagger

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Nerlens Noel and Kelly Melton (via @NerlensNoel3)

Just about anyone would have agreed to be Nerlens Noel's guest at the Kentucky Derby on Saturday evening.

That's why it's so awesome that the former Kentucky star and future lottery pick chose a seven-year-old leukemia patient.

Kelly Melton, who was diagnosed with leukemia in November and has undergone intense chemotherapy since then, accepted an invitation to the Derby from Noel during a hospital visit the 6-foot-11 big man made earlier last week. The above video from the Louisville Courier-Journal shows Noel taking Melton on the red carpet and this heartwarming photo from the Lexington Herald-Leader shows Noel lifting him over puddles so he wouldn't wreck his three-piece suit.

Noel is one of a handful of Kentucky athletes who have gotten to know Melton during the seven-year-old's stay at Kentucky Children's Hospital. New Kentucky football coach Mark Stoops has also made frequent visits, recently inviting Melton to the Wildcats' spring game and awarding him the game ball in the locker room afterward.

Noel recently told WKYT Melton is an inspiration to him as the big man tries to recover from a knee injury suffered three months ago.

"I really admire that kid," Noel said. "He's a very strong kid. Through everything he has been through, that's something I really look up to. He's really a great kid with a great personality. Doing something like that gives you a really good feeling. I love that kid like he's my little brother."

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