Felder’s leap elevates his draft status

Rod Beard
The Detroit News
Kay Felder

Chicago — At 5-foot-8, Kay Felder often draws attention for what he can do with his diminutive size.

He raised some more eyebrows with his performance at the NBA Draft combine on Thursday.

Felder, one of only two prospects at the combine shorter than six feet, showed his athleticism, leaping to an impressive 44-inch max vertical jump. Unofficially, that’s the second-highest vertical jump in combine history — and could allay some fears about his height.

He said that wasn’t a focus of his pre-combine preparation, but the performance still is impressive.

“I looked at it and I said that was cool,” Felder said. “I never tested because I always felt I was a great leaper.”

After opting to leave following his junior season at Oakland University, Felder is looking to catapult up some draft boards by showing that he can do more than just score and pass, as he did exceptionally this season.

He was projected to be selected anywhere from late in the first round to midway through the second round, but he’s showing that there’s more to him than just the video highlights he’s accumulated throughout the season.

In a five-on-five scrimmage on Thursday, he posted 11 points, four assists, four steals and five turnovers in 23 minutes, hitting 4-of-7 from the field.

“Try to win the game — that was my mind-set,” Felder said. “And don’t let anybody score on you.”

Defense was a concern while he was at Oakland, but Golden Grizzlies coach Greg Kampe said this week that was more out of necessity, in keeping Felder out of foul trouble. Felder showed some dogged defense on Thursday, which he hoped would make an impression on some teams, if they had questions.

“Every team that I talked to asked about my defense. I said I was going to prove it here or at (individual) workouts,” Felder said. “He said pick and choose your spots and don’t try to pick up fouls. Just have to be aggressive on defense to show I can play defense, because that’s one thing that’s going to get me to the next level.”

If teams believe that Felder can overcome his short stature — as others such as the Hornets’ Kemba Walker and the Celtics’ Isaiah Thomas have — there could be a spot for him in the first round. Felder was fourth in the nation in scoring (24.4 points) and first in assists (9.3), a combination that many teams would covet, despite his size.

“People have definitely given me a chance. I used to hear about the height thing all the time and now I’m barely hearing about it,” Felder said. “I always hear about comparisons to other guys who are smaller and having success.”

Most of the hubbub started after he had 37 points and nine assists against then-No. 1 Michigan State this season. From there, his potential to reach his NBA dream started to ascend as well.

“That set everything off — and after that game, the phone was blowing up — Instagram and Twitter,” he said. “That Michigan State game did a lot for me.”

If Felder continues to impress, the combine might do a bit more.

Pistons prospects

The Pistons, who have the No. 18 pick in the first round, look to be targeting point guard and power forward in the June 23 draft.

They interviewed Notre Dame’s Demetrius Jackson, Florida State’s Malik Beasley and Vanderbilt’s Wade Baldwin IV — all potential point guards who could be available around the time of their selection.

Baldwin, who measured 6-foot-4 with shoes, said he got good feedback from the Pistons in their individual interview.

“They said, ‘I like you more than anybody in this room and tell us why we should draft you,’ ” Baldwin said. “I left that feeling really good about my standing with them.”

Baldwin is projected to be around in the middle of the first round, but if he’s gone by the Pistons’ pick, they could look at Jackson, who is 6-foot, 194 pounds.

Jackson said he also met with the Pistons, along with the Suns, Spurs, Kings, Trail Blazers and Bucks, among others.

Twitter: @detnewsRodBeard