Sophomore Summer

Kay Felder Looks to Carry Summer Success Into Second Season with Cleveland
by Joe Gabriele Managing Editor

Sophomore Summer

Kay Felder Looks to Carry Summer Success Into Second Season with Cleveland

Like most rookies on a veteran-laden club with deep postseason expectations, Kay Felder experienced an up-and-down season as a freshman with the Wine & Gold.

Felder came out of last year’s Draft as the smallest player but with some of the biggest numbers – having led the nation in assists and the only player to rank among the nation’s top 5 in both scoring and assists. After a prolific three-year career at Oakland U., he was taken with the 54th overall pick by Atlanta before being dealt to Cleveland last June.

As the Cavaliers tinkered with the backup point guard role, Felder had some solid nights – including a run in late-December/early-January in which he notched double-figures in four of five appearances off the bench – and some rough ones – including a February night in New York where Brandon Jennings gave the rook a baptism-by-fire.

With minutes at a premium – and Deron Williams joining the fold in February – Felder was assigned to Canton, where he tore up the erstwhile D-League, winning Performer of the Week honors by averaging 30.7 points over a three-game run with the Charge. In a big divisional win over Fort Wayne, Felder went off for 41 points, including 30 in the second half.

Felder will have another veteran point man – José Calderón – to compete with when Training Camp tips off. But right now, he’s been guiding the Wine & Gold in Vegas Summer League, taking an undefeated squad into Thursday’s tournament matchup with Lonzo Ball and the Lakers.

The sophomore guard took a moment to talk to about his experience in the desert, his rookie season in Cleveland and his expectations for the coming campaign …

Kay Felder #20 of the Cleveland Cavaliers handles the ball against the Golden State Warriors on July 10, 2017 at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images

How different do you feel today than when you were here one year ago?

Kay Felder: Man, from one year ago today, I feel great!

Coming in last year, I didn’t know everything about what to eat, how to prepare my body and things like that. I didn’t know how to deal with X-amount of games in X- amount of days. That one year getting through the season really helped me – even though I was going back and forth between the D-League and the NBA.

It all prepared me and helped me get to this point, and that’s why I think that my body is in such a great rhythm.

And then all the film I watched on point guards in the league – how they come off of screens and create for others and created for themselves.

What specifically have you looked to improve on in Summer League and over the offseason?

Felder: I’m just doing way better in the pick-and-roll. That’s what the game is all about now – and it opens up so much.

So, something I’ve really worked on this summer is pick-and-roll basketball. Just coming off screens – looking for guys and looking for my shot as well.

I know I can score. But can I create for other guys and make other guys better? That’s a big challenge for me and that’s what I’m trying to improve on.

I’d say that, as well as my defense – not so much trying to get a lot of steals, but just to make sure guys feel me on that end.

Do you feel like you’ve brought some new wrinkles to Summer League this year after one year in the league?

Felder: Yeah, and I think that’s what a year in the league will do for you, especially if you’re engaged – not just sitting back, chilling and complaining about not playing.

When I wasn’t playing, I was watching and asking questions, trying to gain knowledge from different guys.

Plus, doing workouts with Phil Handy and the other coaches – that’s what elevated my game.

After averaging about 30 games a year in college, you did almost 100 games in your rookie season and now you’re in Summer League. How do you feel physically?

Felder: I’m feeling fine. I had a little bit of a break to calm down, relax, get a little break from basketball. But I feel fine at this point.

"This is a business trip for me. And I’m hoping to handle my business the rest of the way."

Cavaliers Guard Kay Felder

You’re not a really vocal guy, but sometimes the position demands that you be. Is this something you’re working on?

Felder: Yeah, I’ve definitely been working on talking more and just trying to become that ‘all-around point guard’ – and I think so far I’ve been pretty good. But I definitely have room for improvement, too. I still think I can go a little further and reach a little bit more.

How’s this year’s experience in Vegas been so far?

Felder: It’s been great!

I’m back playing basketball. I’m having fun – obviously, with the winning – but also because everybody’s bought in and really playing hard. And that’s the main thing: guys are really playing hard and that’s translated to having fun and winning games.

Guys definitely go hard out here because everyone here is looking for a job. I have guys coming at me, coming for my job, so I’m just trying to control things I can control and make sure I’m out there doing my part to keep a job.

What do you think your role can be with Cleveland in your sophomore season?

Felder: I think my role can be backing up Kyrie, coming in with that second unit and pushing the ball, checking guys for 94 feet.

Last year changed me, because I saw what work ethic really was. It challenged me to up my level. It made me want to be more than what I am. It’s made me not want to settle on anything in life. On the court and off, to do everything to the best of my abilities.

What have you been doing for fun off the basketball floor in Vegas?

Felder: Well, I have family here. So, I’ve just been hanging with them and going out to dinner. I’ve just been chilling; I haven’t done much.

But then again, this is a business trip for me. And I’m hoping to handle my business the rest of the way.