Before Feb. 25, most college basketball fans had not heard of Kahlil Felder. But on that date, he jumped into the national spotlight when one of his moves made it to No. 1 on the top plays list on ESPN’s Sports Center.
Oakland University’s 5-foot-9 point guard was featured juking out Youngstown State’s 6-10 center Bobby Hain during the final minute of a Horizon League game. The move caused Hain to crumple to the court as Felder completed a between-the-legs dribble and layup.
But that crossover is not the primary reason Felder is known to basketball insiders. And it’s not his Division I lead in assists per game either.
Felder regularly outleaps players a foot taller for rebounds.
And he can practically jump right out of the gym. He hasn’t shown it in many games, but he is capable of dunking like legendary small stars Spud Webb and Nate Robinson.
During a Jan. 15 home victory over Green Bay, Felder made a highlight-reel dunk on a pass from center Corey Petros.
Felder said he made his first dunk during his sophomore year at Pershing High in Detroit.
“I told my teammate just throw it up and from there it just took off,” Felder said.
That teammate was Sherron Dorsey-Walker, who is reuniting with Felder at Oakland next year after transferring from Iowa State.
Felder’s game took off his sophomore year at Detroit Pershing, and that was when the recruiting process really began.
Oakland head coach Greg Kampe said Felder quickly became his No. 1 target.
“We recruited him as hard as we’ve ever recruited anyone,” Kampe said.
In fact, Kampe didn’t recruit a point guard in Felder’s junior year just to prove his interest, despite not having a true starter at the position.
Felder had options, but said he chose Oakland because of the freedom Kampe gives his point guards.
“There were some great point guards before me like JJ (Johnathan Jones) and Reggie Hamilton.”
Both Jones and Hamilton led the Golden Grizzlies to NCAA tournament bids. Jones led the Division I in assists in 2008-2009 and Hamilton led Division I in scoring in 2011-12.
Oakland associate head coach Saddi Washington described Felder as somewhat of a hybrid of the two Oakland guards to come before him.
“JJ was a really good defender and a really good facilitator on the floor … Reggie was just an absolute phenomenal scorer. (Felder) has the ability to take over a game with his scoring ability and his ability to set others up.”
Felder said he models his game after current NBA stars Chris Paul, John Wall and Eric Bledsoe.
Felder won the Horizon League freshman of the year award last season. He took another step in his development this year, increasing most of his statistics from his rookie campaign.
The only thing standing in his way of league player of the year is reigning MVP Keifer Sykes, who outplayed Felder in the final game of the Grizzlies’ season at Green Bay on Feb. 28.
Felder said he doesn’t care about the award, he just wanted to go dancing at the NCAA Tournament. But No. 3-seeded Oakland lost 72-69 to UIC in the Horizon League tournament quarterfinals on March 6 despite Felder’s 21 points.