Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
Freshman Jalek Felton starts at point guard for North Carolina in season opener
By SEAN BOCKWhen star senior point guard and last year’s Final Four Most Oustanding Player Joel Berry broke his right hand a few weeks back, UNC head coach Roy Williams had a decision to make.
Either he could start athletic sophomore Seventh Woods or the highly touted freshman Jalek Felton.
Williams went with the second option.
In his first collegiate start, Felton scored 5 points and grabbed 2 rebounds in 18 minutes of action while his team was able to come away with an 86-69 victory over Northern Iowa in Chapel Hill on Friday night.
“Jalek (Felton) for a freshman in his first game, I thought he was fine,” Williams told reporters after the game. “It’s hard playing without Joel Berry. No question about it.”
Though Felton’s stat line wasn’t eye-popping, his impact on the court was felt, as he took care of the ball, turning it over once, and making great passes that didn’t always result in assists.
The nephew of former UNC standout Raymond Felton, Jalek averaged 26.8 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 4.8 assists in his senior season at Gray Collegiate Academy (SC). Williams believes Felton is one of the most talented players he’s ever coached and will play a huge role in his team’s success this year.
“He’s really gifted,” Williams said at UNC Media Day. “If I can get him to be more focused and tougher, I think he’s got a chance to be a really good player, and really help us. He’s got some skills that a lot of other people don’t have.”
Woods came off the bench and chipped in 9 points and 2 assists, and looked a lot more comfortable on the floor than he did last year.
Kenny Williams and Theo Pinson started at the wings for the Tar Heels, while forwards Garrison Brooks and Luke Maye got the start in the frontcourt.
Friday marked the first time since North Carolina had two freshmen in the starting lineup (Brooks and Felton) since Wayne Ellington and Brandan Wright in 2006.
Though Berry will be back for the defending national champs in the next week or so, former UNC big man Isaiah Hicks thinks Berry’s absence is beneficial for the younger guards.
“Joel is going to be back in less than a month, or so I think this gives a great opportunity for Jalek and Seventh to really step up and really get a feel for it before Joel comes back,” Hicks said at Westchester Knights Media Day in October.
The Tar Heels will play host to Bucknell on Nov. 15 at 8 PM. The Bison return five starters from last year’s group which clinched a berth in the NCAA Tournament.
Photo: Inside Carolina
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