Felder feels ‘no pressure’ after remarkable nonconference season draws nationwide attention

Kristen Davis

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If you’ve followed Oakland University men’s basketball at all the last three years, you already know who Kay Felder is.

His freshman year, you watched him become the first player in program history to record a triple-double, tab seven or more assists in 16 games, make the Horizon League first team and earn the title of freshman of the year.

His sophomore year, you followed him as he repeated as a first team selection, became a mid-major All-American and a finalist for the Lou Henson award, which is given to the best mid-major player in the nation.

That same season, he was the only player in the country to average at least 17 points and seven assists a game, while finishing second in the nation with 7.6 assists per game and scoring over 20 points in 14 games.

So this year, it was no surprise to you when he was named preseason player of the year. That’s because you’ve been witnessing the greatness exhibited on the court by the man who wears No. 20 for two and a half years already.

But the rest of the nation has just recently started to tune in. After his triumphant efforts in the nonconference portion of this season, Felder’s name has made its way to household status across the country.

Against all 13 Division I teams Oakland faced, Felder scored over 20 points each match up, which included four 30-point games. His 26.8 points and 8.8 assists per game rank second and first in the NCAA, respectively, as of Dec. 31.  

In addition to this, Felder held his own against the four Power Five teams Oakland faced, dropping 23 points on Georgia (SEC), 38 points on Washington (Pac-12), 37 on then-No. 1 Michigan State (Big 10) and 30 on No. 5 Virginia (ACC).

Despite this, though, Oakland was only able to get one Power Five victory over Washington, but the team did take Georgia to the closing minutes of the game and force MSU to overtime – a team which, at the time, hadn’t recorded a loss yet.

His performances on the hardwood since November have drawn attention from current NBA stars Draymond Green and Isaiah Thomas, and even retired NBA guard Allen Iverson.

Analysts Steven A. Smith and Dick Vitale joined the conversation about the point guard on social media after Felder led Oakland to a near upset of the No. 1 Michigan State Spartans on Dec. 22. His name was trending on Twitter during that game too, and Vitale later went on to name Felder player of the week in his weekly awards on Dec. 27.

The media attention hasn’t stopped there. According to Scott MacDonald, assistant AD for public relations for the Golden Grizzlies, several media requests were made after Felder’s performance at the Palace – a performance which MSU head coach Tom Izzo said was the best he’d seen, professional or collegiate, at the venue. Felder’s stat line that night also included three rebounds, nine assists, two steals and just two turnovers.

The game was the second highlight on the midnight episode of SportsCenter that night. On 97.1 The Ticket, Terry Foster and Jamie Samuelsen held a discussion about Felder. A 10-minute podcast on CBS Sports discussed the game against MSU along with other great players the men’s basketball program has turned out like Travis Bader and Reggie Hamilton.

In an article written by Matt Norlander of CBS Sports on Dec. 24, Felder made the list of top-11 candidates for player of the year. Stories and profiles centered on the Detroit native have been featured in newspapers and news broadcasts across southeast Michigan, ESPN, USA Today, the Washington Post and several others.

It’s safe to say Felder has caught the attention of basketball experts and fans across the country. But for the avid Oakland basketball fans and Horizon League followers, we aren’t surprised.

We knew what he was capable of since we first saw him play for the Black and Gold.

The nation just hadn’t been watching.   

And for Felder, the extra attention on himself and the team hasn’t caused him to feel any extra pressure.

“It’s the game of basketball and just what comes with it. I’ve been talking to my coaches and family about it and they say just take it, keep being humble and pray about it and everything will take care of itself,” he said before the game against Virginia.

“I just play my game, play Oakland basketball.”

Before this season started, head coach Greg Kampe said one of his goals was to post a winning nonconference record. Now that that’s been accomplished – Oakland finished 8-5 – winning the league and tournament is next on the list.

“I love this team, I’ve said that before, it’s a special team,” Kampe said. “Great things are going to happen with this team. I really believe that.”

League play begins on Jan. 2 when the Golden Grizzlies face Cleveland State at home. It will be just the fourth game played in the O’rena this season – 10 of Oakland’s nonconference games were played on the road and the other “home” game was played at the Palace.

And with how much attention Felder has attracted, lots of eyes will be watching as Oakland attempts to claim what is expected to be a rather competitive Horizon League.