Felton grits teeth, plays through injury

The Under Armour event in Louisville last weekend featured its ups and downs for North Carolina commitment Jalek Felton. The elite rising junior guard opened the weekend strongly before succumbing to knee pain and hobbled through his squad’s final two games of the event.

Jalek Felton is without question one of Under Armour’s most featured prospects. Though only a sophomore when he committed this past December, UA released a series of action photos the day he suddenly announced his pledge to UNC.

That fact speaks to the national impression that Felton — Scout’s No. 6 prospect in the 2017 class — has made despite being only halfway finished with his high school career.

With top-shelf status and a recruitment that essentially was over before it began, one naturally would assume that Felton’s objective with Team Felton (his uncle Raymond is the program’s namesake) would be to focus on development.

Problem is, Felton isn’t healthy. He’s struggling with tendonitis in his knee and iced it at various points during the weekend. He jumped out to a quick start in Louisville, averaging 20 points (15-28 combined FG), six rebounds and four assists in his first two outings, leading his squad to a pair of wins, but he scored only eight points total in Team Felton’s final two contests.

Felton remains an explosive, yet versatile performer

Thus, his top objective at the moment simply is to get healthy.

”The first two games I felt smooth, then kind of came down on my knee the wrong way and wasn’t able to plant and move how I wanted to,” Felton said. “But we’ll get through it.”

Due in part to its star player’s nagging injury troubles, Team Felton itself has limped out of the gate to a 2-6 start on the UA circuit. But the young combo guard won’t blame injuries on the club’s disappointing start, as he has been around the game his entire life and appreciates the finer points that determine success.

”Team chemistry means a lot, on and off the court,” Felton said. “We don’t bond as much as some teams, which have been together for so long.”

From a recruiting point of view, the only intrigue attached to him is how he might recruit others. Felton is now the predator, rather than the prey, and there’s one fellow rising junior he has placed in his sights.

”I talk to Matt Coleman about playing together a lot,” Felton said of the Virginia native and pure floor general. “He’s been the main one in my class. We’ve played USA (Basketball) together.”

Felton’s next decision is how to manage the remainder of his high school career. Rampant speculation surfaced this past winter that he’d make a change from tiny Mullins (S.C.) High following this season, but for now he intends to stay put.

”I’m going to stay at Mullins next year,” he said. “My senior year I know I’m going to go somewhere else, but next season I’ll be at Mullins.”

Assuming a timely return to full health, Felton has a very busy summer planned. In addition to Under Armour team events in New York and Atlanta, he expects to attend the Steph Curry Camp, NBPA Top 100 Camp, Under Armour All-American Camp and potentially even the Nike-backed Global Challenge.

But the top priority now is to regain full range of motion and his customary excellence.

”I’m trying to get my knee back to 100 percent,” he said. “I just want to go at it like I normally do.”

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