Javan Felix is proof positive that personal growth comes with confidence. So does personal grooming.
“It’s really a matter of me figuring out I can grow it, really,” Felix said, stroking the new beard that he’s unveiled this season. “My teammates just told me to try it. I tried it, and I liked it. It’s here to stay.”
Apparently, so is a more confident shooting stroke. The Texas senior corralled a loose ball, gathered himself, his thoughts, his grocery list for roommates Cam Ridley and Prince Ibeh, his notes for final exams, and just about anything else imaginable and calmly let loose a buzzer-beater that bumped off third-ranked North Carolina last weekend.
The slow-motion feel of the whole play looked like someone who finally has full command of his basketball capabilities heading into Saturday’s road trip to Stanford (5-3).
Related coverage: Texas at Stanford preview.
“I don’t know what his idea of fun is if he’s not having fun,” fellow senior Connor Lammert said. “Twenty-five points and the game-winning shot against North Carolina I’d say is fun.”
Granted, the season is only 10 games old. But Felix is off to the best start of his career. He’s made 24 of 45 3-pointers, a 53.3 percent clip that’s miles above last season’s career-high of 39.2.
That should be good enough for the seventh-highest total nationally across Division I. But here’s the kicker: Felix hasn’t made enough 3-pointers to qualify. To make the NCAA list, players must average 2.5 made 3-pointers per game. Felix is sitting at 2.4.
How’s that for irony? The guy with a Gatling gun style his first three years suddenly isn’t shooting, or at least making, enough 3-pointers. Coach Shaka Smart stresses readiness. Always be ready to shoot. “It’s a great learning lesson for the young guys,” Smart said. “Hey, here’s a guy who’s been around, every time he catches it, he’s ready to shoot.”
No other player, at least through 10 games, looks more ready, poised and confident shooting from the left wing than the 5-foot, 11-inch guard from New Orleans.
“In the past, we put pressure on him to make shots because the offense was stagnate,” Ibeh said. “If he wasn’t the one doing it, things would fall apart. Now, everybody just believes in him and things are flowing nicely, so he can pick and choose.”
Felix came into this season having made 124 career 3-pointers. Let’s be honest; that’s nothing compared to the total A.J. Abrams, Brandon Mouton and Daniel Gibson made during the Rick Barnes era. So Smart and assistant coach David Cason, who oversees the guards, came up with a little summer work project.
“We told him you have to make 30,000 shots over a nine-week period,” Cason said. “Some kids will look at you and think, ‘Holy hell.’ He looked at me straight-faced and said, ‘Coach, I got you.’”
Do the math on that. To make 30,000 shots — 3-pointers, 2-pointers, free throws, layups, you name it — over nine weeks requires about 477 makes per day. Let’s round up and call it 500 per session. Cason said there were some days Felix and other guys came in twice, once in the morning and again in the afternoon. Felix did three sessions once. “He killed it,” Cason said.
Having watched Felix all summer long, Cason said he knew that North Carolina shot was going in, no matter how slow it developed.
“That’s the calm I’m talking about,” Cason said. “He was just so relaxed, almost casual, but it’s a quiet confidence that he has. When he shoots it, he feels like it’s going in.”
With all that confidence comes happiness, something that disappeared last year. “Sometimes he would get home and just go to sleep. He was tired and angry,” Ibeh said.
Oh, not much has changed on the sleeping part. Ibeh said Felix can “sleep like a sloth.” Other than that, Ibeh is glad the Longhorns have a dangerous shooter in the backcourt.
“He’s steals my leftovers, sooo… we’re in a battle,” Ibeh said. “He hasn’t lost his appetite.”