Jalek Felton had an awakening.
Simply showing up and often being the most talented player in the gym, he realized, was no longer enough. To be truly great, to reach the lofty goals he’d set for himself, a change in mindset was needed.
Felton's inconsistent focus, and thus inconsistent performances, has contributed in part to a rankings drop over the past two years. He entered this spring ranked the No. 25 overall player – and the top player in South Carolina – in the rising senior class by Scout.com.
But with a mindset change – more aggression, more urgency, more determination – has come better shooting, better rebounding and better playmaking.
As one source close to Felton put it, “he’s playing as well as I’ve ever seen him.”
“I’ve started to take it (basketball) more seriously here recently,” said Felton, who committed to UNC more than 17 months ago. “I know I’m the best player in my class and I just want to go out here and prove it. I can only do that by being me and turning it up a few notches. Honestly, I get sidetracked very easy on the court so, for that time I’m on it, I just have to lock in and play.”
Running with Team Felton on the Under Armour AAU circuit this spring, Felton is averaging 19 points, five assists, three rebounds and 2.5 steals per game. He’s shooting 56 percent from the field and 86 percent from the free-throw line.
“The talks I’ve had with Coach Roy (Williams) have been great,” Felton said. “He has so much faith in me. Just some of the stuff he’s told me personally made me motivated. It just makes me want to go out there and give my all and keep getting better.”
As UNC’s lone class of 2017 commitment, Felton has started helping the UNC staff on the recruiting trail. He communicates regularly with P.J. Washington, a rising senior forward with a UNC offer.
“We roomed together out of the country (the 2015 FIBA 3x3 U18 World Championship in Hungary) and at Colorado Springs (2015 USA Basketball training camp),” Felton said. “He’s so humble and is a cool guy. He’s always willing to learn and get better – I think that’s why we clicked. We were always the first in the gym and the last ones to leave at USA.”
Felton said he thinks UNC has a “good chance” with Washington.
Last month, Felton teamed up with 2018 UNC commitment Rechon "Leaky" Black, 2018 UNC target Jairus Hamilton and Team Loaded N.C. on the Adidas circuit.
They’ll play again together in July.
Black and Hamilton will join Team Felton at the Under Armour Finals and Felton will join Team Loaded N.C. in Las Vegas.
“Leaky is a cool guy, I really like him,” said Felton. “He’s a good leader and I like playing alongside him. He’s a combo guard at UNC and I think we’d be good together. If I stay the extra year, when he gets to UNC we’ll already have that little backcourt bond and can just go from there.”
Felton, who has decided to leave Mullins (S.C.) High School, where he played for the last three seasons, is expected to announce his prep school destination soon.