Felder finds a new family
In fact, “The coaches and the players over there were people I would choose to be with even without basketball,” Felder said after a UF practice this week. “They were family to me.”
The family, however, began to break up late in the 2020-21 season. On February 15, at the start of his seventh season, BC head coach Jim Christian was fired, prompting the Eagles family to begin dispersing across the country. They may not have been household names – Wynston Tabbs (towards East Carolina), Jay Heath (Arizona State), Rich Kelly (Quinnipac), Kamari Williams (Miami-Ohio), James Karnik (Lehigh), Makai Aston-Langford (Providence), Steffon Mitchell (turned pro) – but they were Felder’s brothers.
Now he has found new siblings.
“CJ is a great guy,” said the Florida goalkeeper and his transfer colleague. Phlandrous Fleming Jr. noted. “We all got here at the same time and we kind of clicked together from the start. I think he’s growing as a person and as a player. We all get along really well. We’re dating. that he has a family here now. ”
And Florida, in the 6-foot-7, 231-pound, has a forward with 50 games of Atlantic Coast Conference experience, including 35 starts. On a small-sized UF roster, the Gators are going to ask (if not require) Felder to provide them with large-scale bruises, hits and minutes in front of the court, a role that would have belonged to the 6-10. Omar Payne if he hadn’t chosen to transfer to Illinois for his junior season.
What Felder gives Payne high he will make up for with a combination of physique and athleticism that makes him the most versatile defender on a team. That means something, considering the coach Mike White think this group of Gators have a chance to be their best UF team on this side of the pitch. Felder is a bit crude on the pure skills front, but he’s wired, both mentally and physically, to not only defend his position (whether it’s the “3”, “4” or “5”), but the five ground positions. Yes, including the point.
An example. In practice this week, the Gators were working on ball screen defense and switches. During a streak, the fifth-year guard Brandon McKissic stepped out of a screen and came face to face with Felder, who instantly deployed his 6-10 wingspan and invaded McKissic’s space and refused to give up an inch. Same as McKissic. The in-game mini-game drew boos and screams throughout the gym as the two fought against each other.
Erik Pastrana turned to another assistant coach Al Pinkins and said, “I could watch this [stuff] all day.”
In British Columbia, in a team that was only 4-16 last season (including 2-11 in the ACC), Felder averaged 9.7 points with almost 46% of the ground (just 31 , 4 of 3) and 5.9 rebounds in 27.8 minutes, with his 2.4 blocks per second of the game among the league leaders in the conference.
The Gators have 6-11 Colin Castleton, an All-SEC selection of the second team last season, at “5”. Castleton is backed by a 6-11, 290-pound junior Jason jitoboh, a reserve rarely seen in his first seasons which expects to make a considerable jump from his 44 minutes total last season. Felder competes with the comeback Anthony Durji at position “4”, as well as several others for turns at “3”. His ability to keep multiple points means the team has options, especially when moving up to a “little ball” range, where Felder would slide down to the “5”.
It sounds like a pretty wide open window of opportunity, but UF coaches don’t get particularly complicated when they talk about Felder’s intended role.
“Here’s what we need from CJ,” Pinkins said. “We need him to be an elite defenseman, an elite rebounder, an elite shot blocker – and continue to be those things because that is what he is. that from him early, that will help his offensive play. If he can do these things, he will go into a flow and shoot better and allow him to attack. [from the perimeter] when people close in on him [on offense]. “
A good start, of course, would be good for everyone, but it would be especially beneficial for Felder, a soft-spoken South Carolina kid, who admits to having fights with his confidence.
“Often my own head can get in the way,” he said. “Sometimes I think too much and things can go too fast for me.”
And that’s why the Gators just want him to focus on what he does best – sometimes knowing who you are (and not) can make all the difference – and just let his basketball instincts go. take over. They are also good instincts. Good enough to have had suitors like Virginia, Virginia Tech, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, and Arkansas once Felder’s name hit the transfer portal.
He’s a guy who scored 24 points and six rebounds against Duke last season, plus 10 points, eight rebounds and five blocks against Miami. There is potential for stat jam there when Felder is focused.
“I don’t really want to talk about the lineup right now, but if he came off the bench and gave us good minutes as a rebounder and defenseman, well, that’s what we’ve been missing for the past two years.” Pinkins said. . “When’s the last time we had a guy we could call on with a dog mentality that didn’t worry about scoring but focused on rebounding, defense and work? We missed those last two years. ”
Hmmm. Good question. When was the last time?
Kevarrius Hayes, maybe? Or dare we say… Will Yeguete?
“On the ball he’s a crazy good defender,” Fleming said. “He has a few things to learn off the ball, but on the ball he can protect anyone from ‘1’ to ‘5’. Anyone.”
It would go a long way in bringing Felder to places he’s never been before. Like a winning season. And the playoffs.
“I want to go to the NCAA tournament. It’s a formality here, I know, but for me it’s something I’ve never experienced,” Felder said. “It’s a personal goal for me, but at the team level we have high expectations.”
On December 3, Florida crushed Boston College 90-70 in Game 2 of the season during the “Bubbleville” basketball extravaganza at Mohegan Sun in Connecticut which essentially marked the start of season 20- 21. Felder finished with 11 points and a rebound. Its UF counterpart, Keyontae johnson, went for 24 and 12.
Nine days later, Felder was locked in his coach during a pre-game chat minutes before British Columbia spoke against Syracuse.
“He told us to never take this game for granted, then he told us about ‘that kid from Florida …’ and I was like, ‘Oh my God! “Then when I saw the video later that night you knew how serious it was; life and death,” Felder said. “A few months later it was so surreal. I’m here with Keyontae and I’m talking to him. And he’s a great guy. ”
Part of the Florida family. Felder’s family.