Oakland’s Kahlil Felder has a chance to make history

The NBA Draft is a giant pool of athletic specimens being judged on skills and potential hoping not to get drafted by the Philadelphia 76ers. While every now and then the self-claimed experts of the NBA label a guy as a “can’t miss” prospect, the reality is that in the NBA nothing is a given.

With all the uncertainty that lies within an NBA draft pick, and the fact that the league is now loaded with more talent than we’ve ever seen at the game’s most important position, one thing you could take to the bank is an experienced point guard averaging 25 points and 9 assists a night.

A point guard who doesn’t shy away from the big moment – netting 37 points at The Palace against a top-ranked Michigan State squad, and then hanging another 30 against No. 5 Virginia that showcases a stingy defense.

That is the résumé Oakland University’s Kahlil Felder brings to the table.

‘Kay’, as he’s known, ranks tops in the nation in assists (9.0 per game) and is fourth in scoring (25.2). Should Felder lead the nation in both points and assists per game by season’s end, it would be the first time a college basketball player finished the season leading in both categories since the NCAA began tracking assists in 1984.

“I thought he could do both,” Oakland coach Greg Kampe said. “I didn’t think it would be in the same year.”

Felder has shown plenty of times his unheralded ability to get more buckets than KFC catering and more dimes than a wishing well or fountain. Sounds like a good cohesion for an NBA future. However, if there is something holding him back, it’s his size. Felder stands just 5-foot-9, but is built to take a hit, and possesses freakish athleticism and incredible quickness and handles that allows him to make SportsCenter Top Ten plays such as this:

My bad, somehow that Allen Iverson clip made it into a Kay Felder article.

Kidding of course, but perhaps I’m getting ahead of myself. There’s no way Felder can be compared to 11x NBA All-Star, 3x NBA All-First Team, and NBA MVP Allen Iverson.

I mean, Iverson probably doesn’t even know who Kay Felder is. There’s no way a player from a Horizon League commuter school could ever be on a future hall of famer’s radar, right?

You know what they say. Real recognize real.

The recognition hasn’t come easy for Felder, though. Coming out of Detroit Pershing High School in 2013, Felder was only a two-star recruit. His lack of size led to a lot of major programs passing on him. Coming out of high school, he only received offers from mid-major programs, the majority of them from the MAC schools as well as OU.

Felder didn’t mind that at the time, with Pershing coach Wyndell Henry saying “He just wanted to go somewhere, where he could just play,” but it’s certainly something he would never forget.

In a December road game against the Washington Huskies, who currently sit third in the Pac-12, Felder recorded 38 points, nine assists and six rebounds in a 97-83 Oakland win.

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“That day, I didn’t think that there were too many point guards in the country better than him,” Washington coach Lorenzo Romar said. “He was very good.”

Truth be told, there’s not many point guards in the country better than Felder. He has a competitive fire and unmatched will, and as a student at Oakland who frequently attends Grizzlies basketball games, I can attest to the sentiment that Felder is a general on the floor, and the Grizzlies look to him when going into battle. He has tremendous skills and a desire to be the best. He knows the other schools made a mistake when they passed on recruiting him, and he wants to make them know it too.

“I just know when I see those high-major schools or whoever didn’t recruit me, I’m going after them,” Felder said. “I always play with two chips on my shoulder.”

Those two chips have lead to him finally getting the recognition he deserves.

Felder was named Horizon League Freshman of the Year in 2014 and in the same year posted Oakland’s only triple-double in school history in a game against rival Detroit. In 2015, he was named to the Mid-Major All-American team and All-Horizon League First Team.

This season, Felder was voted the Horizon League Preseason Player of the Year and was named to the Wooden Award Midseason Top 25 Watch List.

The junior point guard has his sight set on returning Oakland to the big dance for the first time since 2011. Since Oakland likely won’t get an at-large bid, their only hope is to gain an automatic bid by winning the Horizon League Tournament, which takes place right in Felder’s backyard, just 13 minutes from Pershing High School.

Oakland will have the best player in the tournament and a lot of the hometown backing, which is usually a recipe for success.

If Felder can lead the Grizzlies to field of 68, he may continue to hear his name being mentioned among NBA Draft prospects.

He’s undersized, but athletic and strong, with good quickness, vision, and scoring ability. He gets to the free throw line at the fourth highest rate out of any player in the country, and shoots a solid 85% from the stripe, and 37% from behind the three point line.

“He has some good stuff and is a heck of a basketball player,” one Eastern Conference scout said. “But he needs to mature and improve his poise, shot and touch.”

With his play this season, Felder has already succeeded in going after the schools that didn’t recruit him. He’s on everybody’s radar. He’s made both the doubters and power-five coaches look foolish. Now the only question is, how far will he take it?


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