Kay Felder makes the journey of a million miles from Pershing to the Pistons
Jonathan Daniel (NBAE/Getty)
DETROIT – It’s about 8 miles from Detroit Pershing High to Little Caesars Arena but a journey one in a million can navigate.
Kay Felder got there Monday.
“I think the greatest dream that a basketball player has is to play in the NBA,” Felder’s college coach, Greg Kampe, said by phone Monday from Chicago, where he led Oakland University to a 78-68 win over Illinois-Chicago a few hours later. “The only thing better than that is to play for your hometown NBA team. It’s just awesome for him and his family and for Oakland and the people around here who can go see him.”
The Pistons signed Felder and another player, Reggie Hearn, to two-way contracts. The 45 days two-way players can spend over the course of the G League season with the parent NBA team will be prorated to 23 days. Jan. 15 was the last day NBA teams could add players to two-way deals.
Kampe didn’t quite know he was getting an NBA player when he began recruiting Felder early in his days at Pershing, but he knew he’d be getting a point guard who could step in to the proud lineage of OU point guards. Among them were Jonathan Jones and Reggie Hamilton.
“I told him when I was recruiting him that the point guard before him (Hamilton) led the nation in scoring and the point guard before that (Jones) led the nation in assists,” Kampe said. “I told him I thought he could do both. I just didn’t think it might be in the same year. He ended up first and third, I think.”
As a junior in his final season before declaring for the NBA draft, Felder stirred college basketball with a phenomenal season, averaging 24.4 points and 9.3 assists. And he didn’t pad those stats against weak opposition, either. Kampe schedules more aggressively than any mid-major coach. In consecutive games against Washington – and against Dejounte Murray, who would become San Antonio’s No. 1 pick – Felder had 38 points and nine assists in an Oakland win and 37 points and nine assists against Michigan State at The Palace on national TV.
That caught the attention of NBA stars, too, including Boston’s Isaiah Thomas – who as a diminutive lefty Felder draws frequent comparisons to – and Cleveland’s LeBron James, who championed his cause as the Cavaliers bought the 54th pick in the 2016 draft from Atlanta to select Felder.
The Pistons become Felder’s third NBA team. He spent all of his rookie season with the Cavaliers, then became a cap and roster casualty last October when Cleveland swapped him back to Atlanta, which waived him. Chicago picked up Felder but cut him last month, though it wasn’t an easy decision for Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg, who as Iowa State’s coach recruited Felder out of Pershing.
“Kay’s a really tough-nosed kid and I’m excited for him,” he said of landing with the Pistons. “I thought he did some good things for our team – ultra-quick, bouncy, can get to the rim, a guy that can get it going. He had some really good games. Can score points in bunches.”
Felder and Kampe think the Pistons could be a great fit for Felder, too.
“I know Stan well enough – he’s a great basketball coach,” Kampe said. “I don’t think they would take Kay if they didn’t feel he could help. I have all the trust in the world in Stan and he’ll do what’s right for the Pistons.”
“I think the biggest thing for Kay is with this Pistons team he fits well with the different players they have,” Hoiberg said. “I love the system. I think Stan’s doing a phenomenal job with this team and they’ve got guys that can score and veteran players all around him, so I do think it’s a good fit and hopefully it’s a place where he can stick as a kid from Detroit. I recruited him when he was in high school at Pershing – a good kid and I will always hope well for him.”