With a last name like Felton, in upper, rural South Carolina, basketball attention was a given. For Jalek Felton, then, the first question he faced was whether he had the game to potentially ascend to the level of his uncle, Raymond Felton.
He made quick work of any dismissive attitudes. It's always fair to wonder initially whether a legacy prospect is getting early overhype, but Felton didn't waste time establishing himself as a national caliber prospect.
|Felton boasts exceptional skill for a young athlete|
Not only is he every bit the talent as his uncle — and, long-term, perhaps even better — he's very different. Though both played the point guard spot in high school, Felton is taller, sleeker and the possessor of long arms. He’s wispy rather than compact. He plays a tall guard's game yet doesn't suffer from the quickness deficit that afflicts many jumbo lead guards.
Felton lit up the scoreboard the first time I watched him, at the 2013 Chick-Fil-A Classic. Just a freshman at Mullins (S.C.) High, he proved then that his scoring prowess could take him far.
By the time the 2014 travel season rolled around, he had become a primary attraction. He competed at events such as Adidas Nations and the Fab 48 last summer, where he attracted fans and coaches to a back gym. He'd already cemented himself a potential star, and on his own terms.
Felton entered his sophomore year a prized talent and easily backed up the acclaim. He exploded for 51 points in one contest at the Beach Ball Classic in December, and that same week he committed to North Carolina.
The timing of his commitment caught many off-guard, as he'd said he would go on several unofficial visits to other schools in the coming months, but the ultimate result proceeded exactly as everyone expected. Given his familiarity to UNC — his uncle won a national championship there — Roy Williams always was going to be tough for anyone to beat.
The Next Step
Felton's game is offense. He possesses big-time potential as a defender, but right now he specializes on the other end of the floor.
At 6-3 and with long arms, he's still quick enough — and a superb ballhandler — to break down far shorter players off the dribble. He wields a smooth (though inconsistent) three-point shot and also knocks in various short jumpers on the move. He doesn't have to have his feet set, or be in perfect balance, to put the ball through the basket.
Over the past year he has gained explosiveness and now finishes above the rim far more frequently than he did in the past. His passing skills also are superior — if perhaps occasionally too high risk — and thus defenders can't afford to play him only for his shot.
When you take a step back and examine that list of attributes, it sort of sounds like an NBA point guard, doesn't it? Felton isn't a classical playmaker, but he won’t have to be. And in college, he'll be playing at a program that emphasizes transition basketball — where his creative talents are particularly effective.
Over the next several months, we'll be watching to observe whether his decision-making and defensive concentration improve, as well as if he drills his long-range jumper to the same extent versus national competition as he did during the latter portion of the high school season.
Felton holds top 10 national status for good reason, and look for him to remain a fixture among the national elite.