Introducing Jalek Felton

MULLINS, S.C. – "Definitely." One word that says everything about Jalek Felton's basketball future.

He's "definitely" going to North Carolina if it offers him a scholarship. He "definitely" wants to follow in the college footsteps of his uncle, former UNC point guard Raymond Felton. And, if you listen to most scouts, he's definitely a high-major talent.

Obviously, situations and circumstances can drastically change with players who are more than three years away from playing in college. For now, though, Felton's sole goal is to run out of the Smith Center tunnel as a member of the Tar Heels.

"I've liked North Carolina since I was younger," said the class of 2017 prospect. "It was something I was raised in. When I got older and actually realized who my uncle was and what he was about when he was at North Carolina, it was in me. Carolina blue, you can't go wrong with that."

At just 6 years old, Jalek (pronounced "Juh-leek") traveled with his family to St. Louis to watch his uncle play in the 2005 Final Four. He called it the most memorable experience of his life.

"There were so many people screaming, it was a great experience," he explained. "For him to do what he did, the threes he hit … it was amazing."

He's been to countless games, played pickup with current and former Carolina players and attended Roy Williams's basketball camp. His most recent visit was for ‘Late Night with Roy' last fall. Being around UNC's program for more than a decade has allowed Jalek to gain a unique perspective on Williams and his staff.

"I love his toughness and the way he coaches," he said. "He loves all his players the same amount. It doesn't matter who you are or how well you play. He's just a good, good guy."


Harry Giles, Jalek Felton
at 2013 Late Night with Roy
Nine years after his uncle led UNC to a title, Jalek, a 6-foot-3, 180-pound guard, is making a name for himself. Not just on the South Carolina prep scene, but across the country. He's had standout performances at several underclassmen camps, including John Lucas's.

"It was great to see who else was out there and play against some of the other ranked players in the country to see how I stack up," he said of the camp circuit. "D.J. Harvey, Thon Maker and a lot of people that were there I knew about and a lot of people I didn't know about. It goes back to what my grandfather always says: ‘there's always someone else working harder.' I saw it for myself and I knew I had to come back and work twice as harder."

Scout.com recruiting analyst Rob Harrington saw Felton this past December at the Chick-fil-A Classic, a national even in Columbia, S.C. Felton averaged 24.6 points, 5.6 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game in the tournament.

"He's a very good wing scorer who might be able to defend both backcourt positions down the road," said Harrington. "During my viewings he showed off good athleticism and a dangerous three-point stroke."

Williams devoted valuable time during the July 2013 Evaluation Periods – usually reserved to watch rising juniors and seniors – to get two in-person viewings of Felton. At the time, Felton had yet to enroll in high school.

"I was a little surprised that he (Williams) liked him that much," said Raymond Felton Sr., Raymond Jr.'s father and Jalek's grandfather. "He told Raymond that he liked the basketball skill he has."

In addition to UNC, Jalek has received early interest from South Carolina, Clemson, Coastal Carolina, Wichita State, Northwestern, Ohio State, Virginia, Louisville and Syracuse.

"Quite naturally, I think North Carolina is where he would like to go, for sure," Raymond Felton Sr. said. "At the end of the day, you don't really know until they actually say it. So you can't burn bridges all over the place. So he's still open-minded a little bit. He has to be for now. But if UNC offered, he'd end his recruitment early."

Jalek thinks his UNC offer is coming soon.

"But if it doesn't, I know if I keep doing what I do on the court, it'll come sooner or later," he said. "That's what I'm going to do."

***

Mullins (S.C.) head coach Mark Gerald has been around basketball for more than 20 years. He's seen "superstars," "legends" and "can't-miss" guys come and go.

He's not prone to hyperbole and not easily swayed by hype. So when he says his Jalek is better than Raymond at the same age, he means it.

"I didn't think I'd ever coach a kid as good as Raymond," Gerald said. "He's more talented actually. The toughness and that mentality, he doesn't have that yet like Raymond had. When I say mentality, he doesn't do it every game. Some games he'll kind of drift away. Right now we're focusing on him bringing that intensity every game."

Jalek's freshman season was his second on varsity, after he played for Mullins as an eighth grader. This past season he led the Auctioneers to the state playoffs and had eight games with 30 points or more, while averaging 21.5 points, 6.1 rebounds, 5.1 assists and 4.0 steals.


Jalek Felton, Raymond Felton Sr.
"There's nothing on the court he can't do," said Gerald. "Usually in high school, you get a guard and if he can shoot well, he can't handle the ball or play defense. Or if he can play defense, he can't shoot. He can do everything well. For his age and his size, you don't find a kid that can do everything well on the court like that."

With his ability comes the ire of visiting crowds and the best shot of opposing players. Add in his last name and growing national prominence, and Jalek has a target on his back in every game. It's a target he's starting to embrace.

"As I'm getting older, I'm maturing a lot more," he said. "A lot of people see who I am and they come at me a little harder but I know it's because I'm blessed. I like having the game in my hands. It's a big responsibility but I don't mind it."

Naturally, Jalek said his game was influenced by his uncle and his grandfather. He also tries to imitate two of his favorite NBA players, Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony.

"My strength is definitely scoring the ball," he said. "I can get to the basket pretty easily and I can knock down shots if they back up off me. I like to have the ball in my hands a lot, run the team and get my teammates involved. I'm probably a ‘1' or a ‘2.'"

The morning after Mullins's Class 2A lower state semifinal loss to Lake Marion, Jalek was in the gym, essentially preparing for his sophomore season.

If he's to reach the potential many think he has, Gerald said he has to want to get better.

"I told him whenever he wants to get in the gym, he can get in and he takes advantage of that," Gerald explained. "Some kids you have to ask them or make them come to the gym. Not Jalek. If he keeps the same attitude, he's going to be very good."

And his attitude, Gerald said, would fit in well at North Carolina.

"I've always admired some things that Dean Smith did and how he coached," he said. "We teach a lot of the same principles here. We teach sportsmanship, we preach teamwork and we preach thanking a teammate when a player throws a good pass. If our team needs him to score 30, he's going to score 30. If we need him to score 15 and distribute the ball, he's going to do that. A North Carolina guard, they expect him to run the team, score when they need to and play tenacious defense."

Moving forward, Jalek and Gerald have a customized plan to improve each part of his game. It includes a weight-lifting regimen and an assortment of ball-handling and shooting drills.

"When you have a kid with that type of talent, you have to stay on top of him and make sure he works," said Gerald. "We're working on elevating everything, every part of his game."

For now, Jalek said he's focused on a few words that his trainer, Gilbert Abraham, grandfather and uncle repeat over and over.

"Stay humble and don't let up."

Jalek Felton Profile


Inside Carolina Top Stories