For Carrick Felix, June 27th 2013, had been circled on his calendar for a while. After more than a month of workouts with various NBA teams across the country, the day had finally arrived to see if his efforts would pay off. Some of the workouts went well, while in others he admittedly struggled to perform up to his potential. Furthermore, he was forced to skip a couple of dates due to illness. All in all, Felix was left wondering how draft night might play out.
So there he sat, huddled in front of the television at home, waiting. And then it happened.
"I actually watched the draft from home that night. I had some family members come over, my daughter was with me, and then just some of my high school buddies, so it wasn't anything too crazy," recalled Felix. "Honestly, when they called my name, there really aren't any words to describe it. It wasn't that I wasn't excited or happy, I was just so stunned. I had no emotion. I just got up, walked outside, thanked God, and tried to take in the moment."
"It's something that you think about when you're a little kid. You dream about that moment and what it would be like on that day and all the things you might do and then when that day actually came for me, it was just too surreal."
Ironically, Cleveland was one of the few teams that Felix never had a chance to work out for. He originally scheduled a workout with the Cavaliers but was forced to cancel it when he became sick last month and was never able to reschedule with the Cavaliers prior to the draft. Fortunately, they had seen and heard enough about him that they felt comfortable making Felix the third overall selection in the second round, adding him to their young nucleus, led by Mike Brown who's back for his second stint with the team as Head Coach.
"They saw me a bit during my junior year and then they actually were at the Las Vegas tournament my senior year, when we played Arkansas and Creighton," Felix commented. "I think they also had a scout come out to Arizona a couple times who saw me play and was really high on me and saw that I was getting the job done, so it just kind of all worked out.
"I was kind of bummed out that I had gotten sick before that trip and wasn't able to make it but I think it all worked out for the best because at the end of the day this is where I really wanted to go and work out and have a chance to show them my defensive skills because I knew that's what Coach Brown was really all about."
The unique combination of young talent, an experienced head coach, and the collective competitive drive for the Cavaliers organization that to take the next step are what really stood out to Felix when he researched the team.
"I think it's a great organization and they're definitely on the rise," Felix said. "They've collected some good free agents and have done well in the draft recently. It's a young team that's willing to work and ready to grow. And with Coach Brown coming in, it really helps us out by making sure that we're defensive minded because that's where we're going to prevail.
"We've got Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters, Tristan Thompson, and Anthony Bennett and then guys like Anderson Varejo who have been around the game so I'm excited. I know they only won about 20 games last year, but I feel like this year a lot can change."
For the past two weeks, Felix and some of his new teammates have been participating in the Las Vegas Summer League, showcasing their talent while adjusting to the NBA game. Through four games, Felix is averaging 8.5 points and 6.5 rebound per game with a +8.75 efficiency rating, while even earning the nickname "Felix the Cav" from the team's play-by-play announcer who has been covering the team in Sin City.
However, it's been his trademark defense and hustle plays that have helped him stand out the most to his new teammates and coaches.
"They just kind of like where I'm at and what I'm doing," he said. "They want me to become a better shooter but in this short time here at the summer league, they've just been harping on me to just do what I do. They're really excited about my motor and my energy. I'm just trying to make sure I've got the right defensive switches, making sure I close out right and have my spacing, and trying to apply all those rules for defense.
"I'm not worried about my offense right now. It's just like any other time I've played basketball; the offense is going to come. I know I can knock it down from the outside and I can finish around the rim but defense is what's really going to set the tempo for me."
Felix credits the coaching staff at Arizona State, especially assistants Eric Musselman and Larry Greer, for helping him prepare for the NBA experience. Their familiarity with the rules and expectations of that league have helped Felix get ahead of the learning curve, allowing him to focus on the other areas of his game while he gets adjusted to his new coaching staff and their style of play.
"It's been a learning process but I definitely feel like I have a good connection with Coach (Brown) and his system," remarked Felix. "Defensively, just some of the things I learned at ASU with Coach Musselman and Coach Greer and them bringing over their terminology and knowledge from the NBA, I think that has helped me out a lot. Overall, I think Coach Brown is a wonderful coach. He's been there, done it, and understands what it takes. Just by talking to him and hearing some of the things he's said, he just wants guys to go out there and compete. That's his biggest thing, just go out there, compete, and play defense.
"I learned that it's more than just a game now; it's about people's lives and their careers and everyone is out there working every day. So that's been the biggest thing for me, just making sure I'm ready to go, no matter what it is, what time it is, or who I'm going against, I've got to prepared and ready to battle. That's the biggest thing, I've got to be consistent each day and just ready to go."
Should the Cavaliers defeat the Miami Heat tonight, they will advance to the Summer League championship on Monday, after which Felix said he hopes to return home to Phoenix for a bit before moving to Cleveland for the start of training camp and the upcoming season.
"It kind of blows my mind but at the same time, it's more like I'm ready and excited to get that kind of challenge night in and night out from guys who compete at the highest level," Felix stated. "It's a fun feeling and brings a smile to my face knowing that I have that opportunity to do those things. It's like, LeBron James used to be my favorite player, but now I've got to take a whole new approach to things. However you used to look at the NBA, liking players and whatever, you just have to look at it differently now."
Off the court, Felix has been getting back into the action as well, as he's started his own blog that is hosted on the Cavaliers' official team site that he updates a couple times each week with news from the Summer League for Cleveland fans. He also recently reactivated his Twitter account so that he can reach out to followers and share his experiences as his popularity builds.
It wasn't uncommon to see the former Sun Devil standout spend several minutes after every summer league game signing autographs, and often times he did so donning an ASU shirt. Felix is grateful to his three year experience in Tempe and looks forward to witnessing the exploits of Jahii Carson and the rest of his former teammates this upcoming season.
"I miss ASU lot but this is starting to grow on me," Felix admitted. "I'm just trying to take it all in and stay humble, but I'll always remember what I learned at ASU. That's where it all started for me."