Embiid wants to reward Sixers for their faith in him

Joel Embiid is amazed that he went from playing JV basketball in Florida in 2011-12 to the No. 3 overall pick by the Philadelphia 76ers in Thursday night's NBA Draft.

"This is crazy," said Embiid during a 22-minute conference call Monday. "I still can't believe it."

The 7-foot Embiid transferred from Montverde Academy to the Rock School, a Christian academy in Gainesville. The Camaroon native flourished there and earned a scholarship to Kansas.

When he arrived in Lawrence, Embiid expected to redshirt. Jayhawks coach Bill Self told Embiid that he'd be in the top selection in two years. He probably would've been No. 1 after one season if he didn't suffer a stress fracture in his right foot that required surgery on June 20.

After getting hurt, Embiid, who originally hoped to be a pro volleyball player, wondered if he'd drop to the second round. Sixers general manager Sam Hinkie couldn't resist Embiid due to his potential and size.

"It's great," Embiid said. "I love the fact that they took a chance on me and believe in me. I'm not going to disappoint them."

The injury occurred while playing 1-on-1 in Los Angeles prior to working out for the Cavaliers.

"At the end, it felt like something was wrong with my foot," he said. "I told my agent [Arn Tellem]."

After undergoing X-rays and an MRI, the stress fracture was discovered. Doctors inserted two screws into the navicular bone of his foot.

While Hinkie said Embiid's surgeon told him the injury should take five to eight months to recover from, the Sixers are likely to keep him out all season to ensure the foot heals properly. Embiid said he'll play when he's "110 percent."

"I think it's going to be both of us [deciding when I can play]," he said. "The doctor is going to check on me every week. I'll come back whenever I can. We're going to make the decision together."

The athletic Embiid modeled his game after Hall of Famer Hakeem Olajuwon and continues to emulate Olajuwon — to the point where he even does Olajuwon's signature move called the "Dream Shake."

"I love the way he played the game," he said. "I think about that every day. It makes me want to work harder."

"He is a remarkable player," said Hinkie of Embiid, who averaged 11.2 points, 8.1 rebounds, 2.6 blocked shots and shot 63.6 percent from the field in 28 games last season.

Embiid believes he and Nerlens Noel, a center who sat out his rookie year for Philly while rehabilitating a torn ACL, could eventually form a formidable interior duo. Embiid envisions himself being more of a power forward — though he's taller and thicker than Noel.

"That's a great fit," he said. "We're both athletic shot-blockers. I think we're going to be really good. I think my shot is getting a lot better and I'm working on my [ball] handling."

The Sixers said Monday that Noel should play in the upcoming Orlando Pro Summer League and NBA Summer League.

Embiid said a stress fracture in his back, which sidelined him for the final month of the collegiate season, is fine. "That wasn't bothering me [when I hurt the foot and isn't related to the foot]. I'm happy that those issues are not coming back."

Embiid said he plans on traveling to Philadelphia when he's able to next week and can't wait to see the city and experience living in it.

"I've never been to Philly," he said. "My agent told me I'm going to like it. I like food. A Philly cheese steak is the first thing I'm getting. I hear they've got great restaurants downtown."