Carrick Felix is all too familiar with the underdog role. From being lightly recruited out of high school, to adapting to the college game, he’s always had to prove himself to others. Even after being one of the most improved players in all of college basketball in 2012-13 - averaging 14.6 points and 8.1 rebounds per game - and earning All-Pac 12 Second Team honors, some still doubt his NBA potential.
But don’t expect that to affect him. If anything, it only fuels his desire. Since the season came to an end, Felix has worked out every day on campus at the Weatherup Center with members of the coaching staff and former Sun Devil player Kyle Dodd in anticipation of June's NBA Draft.
“I’ve just been working out and going hard,” said Felix on Tuesday, as he prepared to work out for the Brooklyn Nets in New York. “I’ve been hitting the gym twice, if not three times, each day. I’m a workhorse, so I’ve just been working. Four days after we got done with the season I was right back at it. I’m in the position to put myself out there and hopefully make a name for myself, so I’m going to do whatever I can to make that happen.
“There’s no time off. Not right now. This is a job; it’s what you do.”
Felix took the first step towards making a name for himself last week when he, along with 60 other NBA hopefuls, participated in the league’s Draft Combine - a four-day affair packed with workouts, meetings, and interviews with NBA General Managers and talent evaluators that provided him with the platform to showcase his talents against a group of peers all chasing the same dream.
“It was fun because I got to go out there and compete against guys that I’ve either played against already, or guys that I’ve watched in college from different schools,” Felix described. “And it was at a high level too. I think that was the best part about it, the fact that we competed at a high level and got to play with a lot of guys that I know. It was a really fun experience and definitely competitive.”
Felix drew overwhelmingly positive reviews from those in attendance, who lauded him for his effort and tenacity, trademarks he routinely displayed throughout his senior season, as he squared off against some of college basketball’s best and brightest.
“You can test your abilities and your talents against elite guys,” Felix remarked. “You can go out there and test your skills against these other players and you get to compete at a high level. You can see where other guys have improved in their games as well.”
“Overall, I feel like I did pretty good but I probably could have done better. I just went out there and played like myself and competed, led, and just played hard.”
Felix was one of five players on hand who represented the Pac-12 conference at the Combine, along with California’s Allen Crabbe (Pac-12 Player of the Year), UCLA’s Shabazz Muhammad (Pac-12 Co-Freshman of the Year), and Arizona’s Solomon Hill and Grant Jerrett. For consecutive days, Felix was paired with his long-time adversary, Hill, for workouts, something he admits took some getting used to but ultimately made the Combine experience even more enjoyable.
“It was fun to actually get to know Solomon, outside of Arizona because obviously he’s been the rival,” Felix said with a laugh. “It was fun just being around all of those guys and in that type of atmosphere, to kind of get to know them as people and not just as players. I think that was probably one of the best parts about it.
“There were a lot of guys out there that I knew. Guys like Pierre Jackson, who I played with in junior college, and Jamal Franklin; guys that I’ve played with or have met in the past.”
Felix made headlines late last week when he measured in at 6’4” (6’6” in shoes) and a freakishly low 3.3 percent body fat, lowest of all the attendees. Unlike most college students, Felix says he cut out the junk food from his diet a long time ago when committed himself to improving his play on the court, although he confessed he enjoyed a Snickers bar on his way to the arena that morning.
“I don’t just eat straight healthy all the time or anything like that, but I do definitely try to take care of my body as much as possible because that’s what is going to allow me to play for years and years and years to come,” Felix commented. “I used to eat junk food but not anymore. I just try to take care of my body and put the right food in there. I just make sure I’m not out there eating McDonald’s and all that stuff.”
Accompanying Felix over the weekend was Arizona State Associate Head Coach Eric Musselman, who helped him prepare for meetings with team representatives and group interviews. Musselman, who previously was the Sacramento Kings and Golden State Warriors head coach, helped keep Felix focused while supplying him with a few useful tips on how to approach week's the events.
“For one, he told me to shave my face,” said Felix jokingly. “He said I’d look better for the teams if I shaved, so I shaved all my facial hair, which I’m still having trouble with. But besides that, he said just be me. Don’t go out there and try to be Kobe Bryant; go out there and be Carrick Felix. Be who you are and that’s what I did.
“The interview process was fun. In a sense, you’ve just got to be honest with them and let them know who you are. Let them know you don’t change who you are for them and just talk. It’s fun getting to know the GM’s and learning about their franchises.”
With Musselman's help, Felix insisted he was more than ready for most of whatever was asked of him during the interviews, but confessed he struggled to think of what Head Coach Herb Sendek would tell NBA general managers about him if they sought his opinion.
"I think the question I had the most difficulty answering was what Coach Sendek would say about me," Felix confessed. "That’s a tough question because Coach Sendek could come from anywhere. He might come from right field or left field; you just never know with him.
"I have no idea though; probably that I’m a high character guy, fun, and a good leader. And negative about me? I have no idea. He’d probably talk trash about my hair or something."
With the Combine now behind him, Felix will turn his attention towards preparing for workouts with NBA teams throughout the rest of the summer. With Brooklyn first up on the schedule, Felix will remain on the east coast through the end of the month before a whirlwind tour in June.
"Well, last week I was in Chicago and I’m here in New York this week," Felix said. "I won’t go home until probably Saturday but then I’ve got to go to Philadelphia to work out for the 76ers and for Detroit on the 30th. I’ve got one set up with the Bulls and then after that my month of June is just crazy. I’ll be gone the whole month just working out for teams."
With less than five weeks until the June 27th NBA Draft, Felix certainly has his work cut out for him to gain a favorable draft position. Yet, if first impressions are worth anything, he's certainly off to a good start as he continues his journey to prepare himself for a professional career.