When it comes to its backcourt for next season, the North Carolina Tar Heels are largely set. Joel Berry II, Theo Pinson, Kenny Williams, and Cameron Johnson make up a veteran core that will be hard to top. However, it never hurts to welcome in young talent, which is where Jalek Felton comes in.
Jalek Felton, nephew of former Tar Heel Raymond Felton, is a six-foot-three, 180-pound combo guard from Mullins, South Carolina. He spent his first three years at Mullins High School before transferring to Gray Collegiate Academy to finish out his high school career. In his senior season with GCA, Felton averaged 26.3 points, 5.4 assists, and 4.8 rebounds per game. He managed to average over 20 points throughout every season he played during high school. His knack for scoring is part of what made him a five star recruit, the only such recruit UNC was able to secure for the 2017 class.
There is a lot to like about Felton’s game. He possesses the sort of athleticism that could one day allow him to compete with the best of the best in the NBA. He gives defenders fits with his quickness and explosiveness handling the ball. Felton could stand to gain a few pounds (Jonas Sahratian will take care of that), yet he is an exceptional finisher at the rim. His spring and body control allow him to make acrobatic plays going against taller defenders. He is the type of player you can give the ball to and just tell him to go get you a bucket.
Felton’s remarkable court vision contributes to the craftiness of his game. Watching him read the defense and bullet a pass to the open man can be more entertaining than watching him score. Felton has struggled somewhat with an inconsistent jumper for much of his career. This is something he has worked vehemently to improve and it has showed as of late. Still, we’ve seen many occasions where even true shooters have trouble finding their shot in their opening seasons (see Marcus Paige, Kenny Willams). He may have to reverse this trend in order to earn significant minutes as a freshman.
Felton used to regularly face off with Seventh Woods, a fellow South Carolina native, in high school. Now the two will be joining forces in Chapel Hill to try and help Roy Williams reach a third consecutive Final Four. The battle between them is not entirely over, as the athletic duo will likely be competing for each other’s minutes. Felton and Woods play similar positions and boast resembling styles of play. Felton is arguably a more polished version of Seventh Woods at this point in his career. It remains to be seen, though, whether Woods can make that freshman-to-sophomore leap and if Felton can make a quick adjustment to the college game. Despite what others may lead you to believe about Roy and his treatment of freshmen, Felton will be given plenty of opportunities to prove himself.
Jalek Felton has the biggest upside of anyone in the incoming Tar Heel class. Regardless of his impact in his first season, he will be a key cog in the program. Given his confidence and leadership abilities, don’t be surprised if he follows in his uncle’s footsteps as the next great Carolina point guard. Here’s to hoping he gets started on that legacy as soon as possible.