It was a typical day on the recruiting trail during an open period for Duke Assistant Coach Nate James, well, maybe not so typical in that he found himself in Southern Idaho which is a state the Blue Devils rarely if ever visit. He was there to check out a seven foot behemoth Aziz Nidiaye, but it was a sleek athlete who unexpectedly caught his eye.
I hesitate to use the phrase diamond in the rough but it is more than appropriate when talking about JUCO transfer Carrick Felix. James saw a lot of things he liked in Felix's game during the open gym and the future Blue Devil knew he had the opportunity to make an impression. In fact, he made it a point to introduce himself to Duke's second year assistant in the coaches office after learning who he was, but the likely story is that he was more than aware of who was coming in.
It was March and Duke was just beginning what would turn out to be one of the most magical runs in Duke Basketball history where three seniors led a tight knit group to a national championship. James in just his second year has already made an impact on Duke recruiting efforts and Felix was the first of three kids he played a big role with, the others being Michael Gbinije and Tyler Adams.
"I introduced myself to Coach James in our coaches offices and then we get on the court. He’s watching our center and I was just playing like I always play. I play hard and practice hard and later that night he gave me a call and was excited about the way I played basketball. Ever since then, he’s followed me everyday and we’ve developed a wonderful, wonderful relationship. He’s actually playing like the big brother role right now," said Felix.
Not many people have seen Felix play other than on film but he adds a dimension to next seasons talented roster that wasn't there before. Felix runs the court with ease and when open he wastes little time in flushing down a dunk. He has the ability to be a stellar role player in the Blue Devils system if he continues to work and don't be surprised if he once again finds a way to standout once practice officially starts.
"It’s been a long journey with many ups and downs but Coach K and Nate James saw me and liked me and now I get the opportunity to be a Duke Basketball player and a part of their family. I honestly worked for it. I really worked for it, I worked real hard for it. I’m excited and glad they’re giving me the opportunity," Felix told Blue Devil Nation.
Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski had only seen Felix on film but at the advice of James he took a look at a kid who was being courted by Arizona, Arizona State, Washington from the Pac 10 and Maryland and Clemson from the ACC not to mention West Virginia.
"He’s kind of like another person in my family. I felt like I could talk to him about anything from the start. We just clicked like we knew each other for years and I felt very, very comfortable around him and he did around me, so we really clicked," said Felix when asked about meeting Krzyzewski for the first time.
As we mentioned Felix has all the tools to play key roles especially on the defensive end, "They’re going to use me as a defender. On offense Coach K is excited and feels he can use me at any position because of my versatility. He’s excited knowing he can use me a multiple positions and that’s what they need, so I’m excited about that and look forward to being the best player I can be," said Felix."
Felix's journey to play for the defending national champions wasn't always smooth but he persevered. "My mom didn't even graduate from high school but she still pushed me and made me understand the importance of academics. I was not a good student when I was younger. I didn’t know what I wanted to be in life so I eventually sat down with my mom. We had a talk and identified what was important and academics is part of that.. I just want to do the best I can, just like I do on the court? I want to work that same way in the class room if not harder. I’m a student athlete first not an athlete-student."
With a good attitude and desire Felix now finds himself living the dream and he can't wait to get started in Durham. In fact, he'll be on campus in just two weeks to learn the Blue Devils system and go through off season conditioning drills. Those drills will be conducted by the aforementioned Nate James who will hold down the fort while Krzyzewski and his assistants Chris Collins and Steve Wojciechowski will be in Las Vegas training Team USA for another run at the Gold Medal.
Felix moved around a lot while he was growing up in that his Dad was a military man. He somewhat reluctantly calls Arizona home in that he played his high school basketball there, but he has seen his share of destinations before he landed in Idaho. Felix will now call Durham home and he already feels a part of the team.
"On my visit to Duke I was just talking to the coaches, but then I met the guys. I talked to Nolan, Kyle, Mason and Miles Plumlee. I hung out with Miles some but all of them welcomed me with open arms. I really like that they made me feel comfortable. I mean, I felt real comfortable, like a family and that right there … that was a big part of my decision. I’ve been sending texts back and forth with Seth Curry since I left and he’s a pretty good guy and I think we can be really good friends. I got along with all the guys, so I’m excited," said Felix.
BDN also asked Felix to describe his game in his own words for the many who had yet to see him play, "My game is unique [said with emphasis]. I’m not like a lot of other players … my best thing is my athleticism but I still kind of new to the game. I need to dribble and shoot better, but I can kind of do it all, just unique. You’ll see that when you see me play, the way I run, the way I move the ball, it’s not like anybody else."
Only time will tell if Felix is ready to contribute right away but unlike a true freshman, he brings some experience which should help him adjust to what he readily admits will be a more physical and faster paced game in the ACC.
"It’s been a long journey for me and I’m happy. I’m just ready to be a Duke Blue Devil and play for Coach K and win a national championship. That’s what I want to help them do so I have to work hard in order to give them the help they need to get the job done."
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