Felton Making His Mark

COLUMBIA, S.C. – The last 355 days of Jalek Felton’s life have changed him forever.

He’s gained the scholarship offer of his dreams, become a nationally-known basketball player and lost a coach who served as mentor, confidant, friend and disciplinarian.

A lot to handle for a 16-year-old.

“Losing Coach (Mark) Gerald (after a fight with cancer) was tough for me because he did a lot for me as far as basketball and life situations,” Felton said. “He was there at all times and beyond special to me. My family is helping me get through it.”

This weekend at the Chick-fil-A Classic, Felton along with his Mullins (S.C.) High School teammates and many of Gerald’s former players were recognized. They all wore t-shirts with #makeyourmark on the back in honor of their coach.

“It was a huge honor when they did that,” said Felton. “Just seeing some of the people here who aren’t from Mullins showing that they care, that meant a lot to us and our program.”

Felton has dedicated the 2014-15 season to his former coach and is determined to bring a state title to Mullins.

Through the first four games, he scored 30 or more points twice, including a career-high 48 against Marlboro County (S.C.) on Dec. 13.

“I think I have more point guard skills now,” Felton explained. “All my teammates keep telling me I’m a little too passive. But it’s kind of difficult, because in AAU I have to pass the ball more and get my teammates involved. Here I have to score more because of the competition.”

All hasn’t been great for Mullins, though, as Felton's team has been routed in the second halves of both of its first two games at the Chick-fil-A Classic.

The blowout losses, Felton said, provided an opportunity to learn and improve.

“We know that there’s always somebody that’s bigger and better and working just as hard as you,” he said. “We’ll go back home and prepare and hopefully that will make us better when we’re playing in our conference.”

South Carolina head coach Frank Martin watched both of Felton's games at the event. It was his second and third viewing of the 6-4, 180-pound guard this month.

Martin’s efforts, however, will probably be for naught.

After receiving an offer from UNC in November, Felton told Inside Carolina he was “close to committing.” Since then, he maintains that the Tar Heels and Roy Williams -- who was in attendance for Felton's game on Monday -- have a sizeable lead on other schools and that he’s looking to commit in the next couple months after visiting some other schools.

“I talk to Coach Roy every day or close to every day,” said Felton, whose uncle, Raymond, starred at UNC a decade ago. “We just touch base. I know they won (Saturday afternoon against Ohio state) so I’ll call him and tell him congratulations on the win. He tells me to keep playing hard, stay healthy, stay in the books, stay in good shape. I know where I’m going (to school), we just haven’t made it public yet.” Felton said he plans to visit Arizona, Kansas, Kentucky and Wichita State -- as well as yet another trip to UNC -- before finalizing his college decision.

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