Felman shows heart on the hardcourt
Jake Felman proves time and again that possessing a bigger heart is more important than height.
"It was an incredible feeling and an honor," says Felman. "It was a pleasure playing this year and we had a lot of fun playing together."
After being the sixth man junior year, Felman worked on his game over the summer and fall, which helped him become a starter -- and major contributor -- senior year.
"I was excited to be given the opportunity to play with my teammates and I enjoyed being a part of the team," Felman says.
Making his task tougher was playing a position that's normally not suited for someone his height. But with Staples not having much height and Felman being a tenacious battler, was given the responsibility of playing at center.
"I played taller guys defensively by using my body," Felman says. "The key is to not let him get near the basket, deny him the ball near the basket and keep him away from the open spot. If the guy is six inches taller than me, there's not much I can do about it inside, but I knew if I kept him away from the basket, I'd be successful."
There's pressure in facing much taller opponents on the court but because of his undaunted nature, Felman never wilted in these situations and instead, he thrived in them.
"Every game, I knew I'd be going up against the best big guy and I took to the challenge and I felt [junior power forward] Mike Argosh and I got the job done," Felman says. "At times, it frustrating, especially going up against two big guys, but I try not to let it get in my head and commit stupid fouls because we didn't have the depth and I couldn't afford to foul out."
Mission accomplished. Not only did Felman refrain from committing these fouls, he sacrificed his body by drawing many offensive fouls, which gave the Wreckers a boost and frequently served as momentum-changers.
"It's something I take pride in," says Felman. "I knew I wouldn't lead the league in blocked shots and help the team by drawing charges. The coaches taught us how to get in the right position to draw charges and it became second nature to me."
Staples finished the regular season at 15-5, 16-7 overall, with Felman playing a major role in its success.
"Jake is an extremely hard worker," Wreckers Coach Colin Devine says. "He made a commitment to the game of basketball and truly understands the game of basketball. I think that helped him and us as a team to be so successful this season. Jake takes pride in leading the lead in charges taken and being our leading rebounder, which is a great example to his peers."
He averaged 6.5 rebounds per game and his tenacity under the glass enabled him to finish in double figures in rebounding in a few close games.
"Boxing out is the key," says Felman. "I've been taught to box out in middle school. We're smaller than all the teams we faced and boxing out was extremely important to us."
Scoring wasn't his primarily role and he was the third-leading scorer on the team. However, if Staples needed a basket, Felman, who averaged 11 points per game, delivered. He didn't take too many shots but when he did, he delivered, connecting on 56 percent of his shots, including the occasional one from 3-point land, and made 70 percent of his free throws.
"Shooting is about technique and I work on it in practice," says Felman. "I play with my teammates all year and working on shooting is important."
Possessing basketball smarts enables Felman to beat his opponents inside as well as out by effectively driving past them and making his layups.
"I'm not the fastest guy on the team but if I establish an outside shot, I get them by using a pump fake to drive," Felman says.
Although his 2.0 assists per game doesn't reflect it, Felman is a good passer as well and set up many layup attempts with outlet passes. He's deft in finding the open player and set up open shots in the perimeter with kickout passes.
"I was taught to pass first at a young age," says Felman. "A great shot by a teammate should be the priority instead of a shot taken by yourself. When I have the ball, I look up court or to outside the perimeter to see if someone has the open shot."
If forced turnovers became an official statistic, Felman would be among the leaders -- maybe at the top of the list. His ability to harass the opponent led to them frequently coughing up the ball out of bounds or to another Wrecker coming up with the steal.
"Defense is a head game and playing smart defense is to know what your opponents' strengths and weaknesses are," says Felman.
Life on the court began for Felman at age 5 when he started to shoot around at the YMCA. He began playing through his mother Michelle's, influence. He also began playing baseball at that age through his father Marc's influence.
Similar to basketball, he experienced success in baseball. Felman was the third baseman and shortstop for the 2003 9 and 10 year old State Little League champions and will be playing first base, third base, catcher and the outfield for Staples this spring.
"Jake is very versatile and can play a lot of positions," Wreckers baseball coach Jack McFarland says. "He's a problem-solver and figures things out. He can put his bat on the ball and bunt. He has moxie."
Felman says, "I learned that versatility is important on the baseball field and I play the position the team needs me to play."
At the plate, Felman is a tough out.
"Good genetics from my father and spending a lot of time when I was younger working on my hitting helped me improve at the plate," Felman says.
Leadership is another strength of Felman as Devine appointed him as captain before the basketball season's opening tip off. He led mostly by example and let his actions speak for him.
"Being a leader is important and it was a huge honor when Coach Devine named me as captain," says Felman. "I felt I was respected and had a huge bond for my teammates. Our entire senior leadership was responsible for our success."
Devine says, "Jake is a great leader because he leads by example with his work ethic and his passion to succeed."
One player Felman has helped as a leader is his younger brother Andrew, a freshman.
"As an older brother, Jake is a mentor to me," Andrew Felman says. "He teaches me what's right and how to handle myself. He gives me advice on specific situations and how to handle pressure on the court. We go to the YMCA together and he teaches me how to guard people."
Athletics isn't the only area where Felman excels in. His academic exploits matches or possibly exceeds what he's done on the court and diamond. Half his courses are AP, he's an Academic All-Stater and will represent the basketball team at the Staples Scholar-Athlete banquet in June. Math is his favorite subject.
"Staples gives us the opportunity to strive academically and athletically and I enjoy my time here," says Felman. "I did have trouble budgeting my time and when I get home, there's no time for dillydallying and I do my homework."
This fall, Felman will attend the University of Pennsylvania, a Division I Ivy League school. Although he's capable of playing basketball at the Division III level, he chose UPenn because it has a lot to offer.
However, he still plans to play organized basketball and will try out for the JV team, which is a few levels above high school ball. If that doesn't work out, Felman will play club basketball. He will work hard over the summer to raise his game to where it needs to be.
"I always loved Penn, my parents went to grad school there and I love the campus," says Felman. "Playing at a Division III school would be nice but Penn has a lot to offer, but I hope to play JV or club basketball there. I will have to be a guard and learn the position. My varsity basketball career is over but not my organized basketball career."