Catching up with UNC commit Jalek Felton
The numbers are good.
Jalek Felton has 24 points, five 3-pointers (on six attempts) and eight assists the past two games.
But the North Carolina freshman guard knows numbers are not quite enough when it comes to impressing his uncle, Raymond, who led the Tar Heels to the 2005 national title, and his coach, Roy Williams, who has a knack for finding and grooming standout point guards.
Felton had a team-high 15 points, with five assists, in 18 minutes in the Tar Heels’ 104-61 win over the Catamounts this past Wednesday.
That didn’t change the tenor of the post-game phone call with his uncle.
“He’s never going to praise me,” Felton said.
Felton has been more under control and made better decisions in his role as the primary backup at point guard in the past two games.
An injury to sophomore guard Seventh Woods has meant more minutes for Felton, but removes any margin of error for the 6-3, 190-pound guard, who was ranked No. 30 in the recruiting class.
“He’s getting more comfortable,” Williams said.
Consistency remains elusive, as it usually is for freshmen point guards. Every freshmen guard has lulls, from Raymond Felton to Ty Lawson to Joel Berry. It’s part of the adjustment to the college game.
“Point guard is the hardest position on the court,” Berry said. “You have to know everything that everyone else is doing.”
Mastering all the sets and plays has been the toughest part for Felton, hence the variance in his minutes and production. For the season, Felton averages 4.3 points an 1.9 assists in 13 minutes per game.
There’s a reason, other than the quality of the competition and Woods’ absence, that Felton has shown improvement the past two games.
“The plays are kind of like second-nature now,” Felton said. “It flows more.”
Felton expected a learning curve and some inconsistencies. His two-game outburst, against Western Carolina and Tulane (nine points, three assists, 13 minutes) was preceded by a scoreless three-game stretch against Michigan State, Michigan and Davidson.
He also expected the constructive criticism from Williams.
“I know when I go out to practice, he’s going to yell at me,” Felton said.
Williams is always quick to praise Felton’s talent. “Gifted” is the word Williams regularly uses. He also admits he has been tough on the freshman.
“I’m on him hard, I really am, because I see so much there,” Williams said.
With all the feedback Felton gets from his uncle, Williams and Berry, he said he’s getting used to the constructive criticism.
He also said there are still times when he’s frustrated.
“When I feel like I’m right, I’m still wrong,” he said.
But progress is coming, and at the right time for the Heels. With Woods out indefinitely and Cameron Johnson still out with a knee injury, Felton’s minutes and development are important.
There’s a lull in the schedule, with a road game at Tennessee on Sunday, and only two games after that before ACC play begins on Dec. 30.
Felton was pleased with how he played against Western Carolina but he’s not ready to celebrate.
“It’s just the beginning,” he said. “You’ve got take it one game at a time and try to progress in some way each game.”
Joe Giglio: 919-829-8938, @jwgiglio