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Small School, Big Dreams: Kay Felder is Turning Heads

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Former Oakland University point guard Kay Felder is making his mark at the NBA Draft Combine. Will his outstanding performance and high-profile support push him into the NBA?

Byron Hetzler-USA TODAY Sports

If basketball fans have learned anything over the past season, it's that they shouldn't ignore Draymond Green. The Golden State Warriors' forward guaranteed a Game 4 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers in their series last week, and has now taken to Twitter to heap praise on little known NBA prospect Kahlil 'Kay' Felder.

If NBA scouts didn't know about Felder before this weekend's NBA Draft Combine, they sure do now. The shortest man at the combine (he measured in at 5' 8.25") has showed up in a big way in Chicago.

The Oakland  University product turned heads on day one with a 44-inch vertical leap, tied for second all-time at the event. Those measurables translated on to the court with strong scrimmage performances throughout the first two days. Felder averaged 11.5 points and 3.5 assists over the course of those two days.

It's easy to see why Felder has flown under the radar. The Oakland University Golden Grizzlies rarely saw the NCAA spotlight, playing in the Las Vegas 16 postseason tournament in 2016 (Felder's junior season, he's an NBA Draft early entrant), and in the CollegeInsider.com postseason tournament in 2015. However, Oakland did face off against two top 5 teams last season, where Felder showed he can compete with the elite. In a nationally televised overtime loss to #1 Michigan State in December, Felder poured in 37 points and handed out 9 assists. A week later, Felder went off at #5 Virginia for 30 points against one of the highest regarded defenses in the country.

At the core of Felder's game is his ability to create separation, both when it comes to getting a shot off and while dribbling. Due to his size, Felder can't always follow the typical rise and release shot of most players. Instead, he uses his dribble to put space between himself and his defender, reducing the chance of a blocked shot. That herky-jerky action will be crucial in the NBA where he'll almost always face athletic defenders than can (nearly) match his vertical jump.

While ability to separate makes him unique, Felder can dish it out as well as any point guard. He possesses excellent court vision and isn't afraid to make the dangerous pass.  Felder's willingness hasn't been an issue, as he enjoyed a 2.7 assist-to-turnover ratio during his junior season. That would give Felder the 4th most efficient Ast/TO ratio among NBA prospects, as he only trails Caris LeVert, Tyler Ulis and Denzel Valentine

Knowing all this, NBA expert Chad Ford was pretty direct in response to Draymond Green's questions about Felder:

Ford is right. Felder does have a chance and he's put himself in a position to rise some draft boards. The success of players like Nate Robinson and Isaiah Thomas prove that height isn't a necessity, but for every Robinson or Thomas, there's a long list of players that didn't have the physical tools to compete at the highest level. For now, it's not clear where Felder will end up. But if he can find a way to play like he did against the likes of Michigan State and Virginia, there will be a place for him in the NBA.