Photo courtesy of The State.
By David Cordova
Toughness is something that all players need when they step on the hardwood. Without it, there’s no chance of success, only a letdown. Rakym Felder is a player that embodies just that.
South Carolina’s 5-f00t-10 freshman guard from Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn has had a long odyssey filled with trials and tribulations. But he still managed to persevere through those tough times to get to where he is today.
“Just my older brother having success in basketball showed me that I can do the same through hard work,” says Felder, “I just to take these moments in and find my own success through basketball.
Even though he’s made it to college, Felder still keeps his Brooklyn roots with him wherever he goes. “It means everything because you have the whole city behind you and not a lot of people make it out of Brooklyn, it’s a rough area, so, Brooklyn means everything to me. I’m in college now, so that’s a big plus.”
Although he’s a native New Yorker, Felder attended high school in the very state in which he attends college today, starting out at Indian Land High School in Indian Land, South Carolina. On living down south in comparison to New York, Felder said, “South Carolina is great. The environment, the people, the support you have out there. South Carolina is just a wonderful place to be at and I’m glad to be there to this day.”
Then as a sophomore, Felder returned home to Brooklyn, transferring to perennial powerhouse, Abraham Lincoln High School in Coney Island. The Railsplitters, coached by Dwayne “Tiny” Morton, and at the time led by Brooklyn Nets rookie Isaiah Whitehead, Seton Hall junior forward Desi Rodriguez, and countless other players, went 22-4 and played a big-time national schedule at events such as City of Palms in Fort Myers, Florida and the Hoophall Classic in Springfield, Massachussetts. That team went all the way to the PSAL semifinals in which they lost to arch-rival Thomas Jefferson.
Although their season didn’t end in a championship, Felder had fond recollections of that season, as well as playing with a future NBA player. “Playing with him was great. We had a good team, just being around Tiny Morton and Isaiah Whitehead, just showed me a lot and helped me develop and grow as an individual, so that was great.”
Then as a senior, Felder had a season for the ages, averaging 16 points, six assists and four rebounds per game for the Railsplitters, who made it all the way to the PSAL championship game at one the biggest of stages, Madison Square Garden. Unfortunately, Felder would not be able to participate in that game due to a foot injury that he suffered in the PSAL quarterfinals a couple of weeks earlier against Queens High School of Teaching. Without him, the Railsplitters came up short to their arch-rivals, Jefferson, in the title game.
Although his senior season ended abruptly, Felder looked at it positively. “I think I had a good senior season. We came up short, I got hurt during the playoffs, so that kind of hurt me.”
On March 6th, 2016, he committed to play for South Carolina, returning to the state that he once called home. His reasons for committing to USC were, “The university, Frank Martin himself, the coaching staff, the players, just everything about South Carolina is great and I loved it there when I was a freshman in high school so I just wanted to go back and just be successful there.”
On playing for South Carolina head coach, Frank Martin: “It’s tough everyday, he’s a great coach, he’s had great players and everyday he’s gonna bring the best out of you.”
So far, the Gamecocks have had a very successful season, starting off with a9-2 record, with wins against programs such as Monmouth, Syracuse and Michigan. When asked about the feeling of being a part of a winning program this early in his college career, Felder replied, “It’s great, because coming in as a freshman, you get to see the big moments and you get to watch older players play and you get to take in some knowledge, so being on a winning team right now is great, we just have to keep it going.”
So far, Felder is averaging 3.2 points and 1.2 rebounds per game this season, but as he continues to progress, those numbers will start to increase.
Another good part of being part of his experience at South Carolina, is the fact that they have played two games in New York this season: beating Syracuse by fourteen pointsin his native Brooklyn at the Barclays Center on November 26th and losing by three at the Garden to Seton Hall on December 12th. When asked about the chance of playing at the Garden again, he said, “Being back at the Garden, it was refreshing and it’s good to be out here playing basketball in college.”
As he continues to grow as a player, there is no doubt that Felder will make an impact in his adopted state’s school and also in the SEC, but for right now, his goals are simple: “Just to be competitive, lead, and just go out there and play my hardest and give it my all.Just to be a great teammate, a great leader, a great individual and to be successful in school.”
Highlights of Rakym Felder:
Courtesy of Marisol Leon.
Courtesy of BK Stompers.