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UNC basketball: Jalek Felton and the tale of the tape

The freshman point guard has been impressive during the first ten games.

NCAA Basketball: Western Carolina at North Carolina Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

With North Carolina in a break for exams, we can take the opportunity to look back over the first ten games. Jalek Felton has been great for the Tar Heels so far, but it’s interesting to compare his playing style to Joel Berry II. Berry can penetrate and get to the hoop quickly, performing better off of the ball utilizing screens. Felton, meanwhile, works best with the ball in his hands either penetrating and passing or finding the smallest of spaces for a lay-in. Let’s take a quick look at how he has impacted play at the point guard position for the Tar Heels this season.

Offense

Felton came to North Carolina as a highly recruited combo guard with the promise of high-flying flare with sweet passes and mind-boggling finishes. So far? Check, check, and check. He’s impressed with his ability to get the ball to the rim in highlight fashion. Here he is at Late Night with Roy showing off some fancy moves.

Here against Tulane he works a couple of defenders with a few hesitation dribbles before finding the seam along the baseline and a beautiful finger roll finish.

This nasty exclamation point against Stanford shows that he can finish with power when needed. You can see him eyeing the lane before he even gets the ball. He makes a half-second slight hesitation move to get the defender in the corner and then takes off for a strong finish.

His ability to get to the rim, though, has opened up opportunities for other players. Below, Felton is leading the break. As he makes a move to go to the rim, the outside defensive player sinks down to cover him. Felton is able to find the outside wingman, in this case Brandon Robinson, for the open three.

In this instance, Felton receives the pass from Robinson. He then takes a baseline cut. Somehow, someway, he is able to thread a pass through the smallest of windows to Luke Maye for the easy finish.

In fact, he’s had quite a few beautiful passes, including this insane gem...

...and this nifty spin-move-dish to Brandon Huffman for the slam!

However, Felton isn’t just a drive-and-dish or drive-and-score point guard. He can also make a move and hit an outside shot like he did here against Arkansas. We could certainly use more of these.

Speaking of his outside shooting, Felton is currently hitting nearly 40% from three, including a perfect 4-4 against Western Carolina.


Defense

The biggest area of concern, thus far, would have to be his defense. He has seemed to struggle finding his assignment at times, getting lost in screens and confused on his position in the help defense.

Against Northern Iowa, Felton leaves his assignment here to play help defense against the penetration. This isn’t a wrong choice (and is actually fundamental man-to-man defense), but it does open up the outside for an uncontested shot.

This one may be nit-picky and follows in the same vein as the example above, but it gave up points at a big time for Western Carolina. If this were an ACC opponent, a big three just before the half can swing the momentum. As Andrew Platek is faked into the locker room, Felton sinks down looking for the drive. With Maye behind him covering the post and Manley coming in on a trailer, Felton has the opportunity here to flash outside and contest this shot.

The following sequence drew the ire of Carolina fans on Twitter, however, this is one that was NOT at the fault of Felton. Here, they are in a basic 2-3 defensive set. As the big man at the top of the key passes the ball off, Felton initially goes with him. He points out to Theo Pinson of the cut, but Theo doesn’t respond. Platek is beat off dribble and Felton rushes to cover the outside (along with Pinson). This leaves the cutting big man open underneath.


On the season, Felton is hitting 44% on 16-36 shooting and 39% from the outside on 7-18. He’s currently got a not-so-great 1.9 Assist-to-turnover ratio, but that looks to go up as he becomes more comfortable with the ball and as he learns where his teammates will be as he drives.

Although he isn’t AS efficient as Berry, he still has the team playing at a high pace. He will continue to get big minutes at the point with Seventh Woods recovering from an injury. Look for him to grow defensively, which should cause an uptick in the team’s overall offensive performance when he is on the court.