Felder eager to show Cavs, LeBron he's got game

Tony Paul
The Detroit News
Kay Felder's rights were dealt to Cleveland after he was drafted by Atlanta with the No. 54 pick.

Detroit — It's still unclear how much or how little high-ranking members of the Cleveland Cavaliers front office watched Kay Felder play basketball, in person.

But there was at least one notable Cavaliers employee who saw him play twice. That employee's name is LeBron James.

James visited Oakland for a game against Cleveland State in January 2015, and was at Cleveland State when Oakland visited in February 2016.

The Golden Grizzlies won both games. Felder scored 16 as a sophomore, and had 13 points and 11 assists as a junior.

Might "The King" just be responsible for Felder now being a Cleveland Cavalier?

"I don't know," Felder said late Thursday night, after being selected late in the NBA draft. "You've got to ask LeBron on that one."

Felder and James never spoke at either of the games — James came to Rochester to support a good friend who was on Greg Kampe's staff at the time, Brandon Weems, who now is a scout for the Cavaliers; and James attended the game at Cleveland State for Norris Cole's jersey retirement — but Felder certainly noticed his presence.

"I looked over at him a few times," he said. "Just to be like, 'Did you see that? Ya know?'"

Van Gundy: Gbinije’s 'size' trumped Oakland’s Felder

Felder became the second Oakland University player ever drafted Thursday night when the Atlanta Hawks selected the 5-foot-9 guard with the 54th overall pick, and then sold his rights to the Cavaliers for $2.4 million.

At Felder's draft party in downtown Detroit on Thursday night, a crowd pushing 200 friends and family members erupted in cheers and chants of, "Kay, Kay, Kay," when the selection was announced on ESPN.

It capped a long night, where the patience of many in attendance was tested, especially after there seemed to be a close call, at No. 9, with the San Antonio Spurs.

"It was tough, because I've been told so many things that didn't come true," Kampe said. "I really thought he was gonna go between 19 and 32, 33, and I had reason to believe that.

"But the best thing that could've happened, happened for him."

Kampe said the Cavaliers had told him that they thought Felder was a first-round talent, but the Cavaliers didn't have a first-round pick.

The reigning-champion Cavaliers didn't have a second-round pick, either, but ponied up for the rights to Felder, 21, who this past season as a junior led the nation in assists and was fourth in scoring.

As a second-round pick, Felder doesn't have a guaranteed contract, but Kampe noted the money the Cavaliers paid the Hawks is quite a commitment.

"That's almost like a guaranteed contract," Kampe said. "You're probably gonna give him a really good chance.

"I think he'll respond great."

Felder, a point guard out of Detroit Pershing, surprised many when he decided to enter the NBA draft after his junior season, against the wishes of many — including the skepticism of his mother, Tiffany Williams, who was the most nervous person at the party Thursday, pacing the entire length of the bar pretty much all night.

Felder: 'One of the best days of my life, period'

But Felder has never lacked self-confidence.

For inspiration, he needs look no further than former Michigan State standout Draymond Green, a second-round pick in 2012 who now has a ring and an $82-million contract. It just so happens Felder and Green have been friends since Felder was an eighth-grader.

"It's a beautiful thing how Draymond has changed his life drastically," he said. "I talked to him, and he said, 'Whether you go 31, 60, 52, undrafted, so what? Cool.'"

It won't be easy. But then again, little for Felder has been easy.

He's always been told he's not tall enough, not big enough. Most experts said he was wrong to leave college early.

Felder, though, long has been proving folks wrong. He rather enjoys it, he acknowledged late Thursday night, after making his way through all the hugs, high-fives and photo requests following his long-awaited selection in the NBA draft.

"I feel like I owe them all my hard work," Felder said of the Cavaliers. "I'll never quit on them for as long as they have me.

"Cleveland, the best player in the world, they've got guys that want to win. I'm a winner, in my eyes. I just want to be a part of that."