LAS VEGAS -- Carrick Felix knows exactly who he is. On the floor, the Cleveland Cavaliers rookie is a stopper who can guard multiple positions, score in transition and hit open jumpers. He wants to be like Jimmy Butler and Iman Shumpert. Away from the floor, he brings people together. He has a master's degree from Arizona State University, he cuts hair and he watches skateboarding. He's the sort of guy who immediately puts those around him at ease.
"You would gravitate to him even if he wasn't a basketball player," ASU associate head coach Eric Musselman said.
Ask Musselman about Felix and you'll hear about leadership, maturity and consistency. Ask the 22-year-old Felix about his game and he'll tell you about hard work, defense and learning. After his final game at summer league, he discussed his various off-the-court interests and his path to the NBA that started in Goodyear, Ariz., and went through the College of Southern Idaho and ASU:
I heard that when you were younger you liked skateboarding more than basketball.
That was my first love, man. It was just like something I picked up when I was a young kid. I mean, I wasn't really into sports. It was a little bit too hot outside for me. I don't know, as I got older, just in high school, I just thought I'd try something new. Ever since then, I just kind of fell in love with [basketball].
What are your earliest basketball memories?
Playing with my friends in 100-degree weather at the park. Just pretending that I'd be different players. Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Ray Allen, guys like that man. Just out there, just being kids.
Did the skateboarding thing persist?
I still follow it. It's still fun to watch for me. Definitely Street League is something that's still around that I watch heavily. Besides that, I'm still in tune with it but I gotta make sure I'm on my passion, too, which is basketball.
I don't think your contract lets you do it anymore.
Nah, nah, it's not allowed.
Did you play Tony Hawk? Who were your favorite skaters?
Yeah. I used to. Tony Hawk was me and my friends' favorite game back in the day. We used to play. My favorite skaters were Eric Koston, Kareem Campbell, just guys like that. Just growing up, just being around those guys, I have a couple friends right now who still do it and still kind of go get it done.
When and how did you start to transition to basketball?
I fell in love with it. I think I just realized that I like basketball way more than I liked skateboarding. I mean, it was inside. Just the place that it put me and the place it put me in mentally really, really, really set the boundaries and the foundation for my work ethic and how good I wanted to be. Once I started playing, I just wanted to go out there and be the best I can be. I was coming from behind, all my friends were better than me and on varsity as freshmen and on these club teams. And I'm just this guy who, my first bucket in high school was for the other team. I layed it up for ‘em.
Were you mortified?
Honestly, I didn't know what was going on. They were like screaming at me and then when I layed it up they were like, ‘Carrick!' And I was like, ‘What?'
At what point did you start thinking to yourself you could be an NBA player?
Definitely last year during my -- you know what? Honestly, my whole life. Ever since I started playing basketball, I never doubted myself. I always thought I could play with the best. No matter who it was, no matter who I was going against, [it never entered] my mind that I couldn't play with the best. I'm just making the effort to just come out here and just compete and play and God blessed me with the opportunity to be in the NBA. Now I just gotta continue to prepare for it. I got my first little taste of it [in summer league], it wasn't pretty but I got out there, played hard, worked hard. Now I just gotta look forward to the future and getting better.
[Former Southern Idaho teammate] Pierre Jackson said at JuCo you were getting recruited by every school in the country and playing him all the voicemails. What was that time in your life like?
Man, that time in my life was crazy. Honestly I didn't know what was going on, there were just so many schools left and right ... The biggest school that was recruiting me was Kent State my first year. I was originally going to go to Kent State. After that I mean obviously all the other schools started rolling in. It was shocking, it was a reassurance that even though I'm probably not the most talented, as long as you keep working hard something eventually will pay off. That's my motto, man. Just hard work.
You said just now you were out there imitating Kobe and Ray and LeBron in high school. Predraft you said you were like Jimmy Butler, Kawhi Leonard, Iman Shumpert or a more athletic Bruce Bowen. At what point did you kind of realize Kobe isn't for everybody, you're going to be a stopper and a shooter?
I realized that when I first got my taste of college. I always kind of just played my role and did what the team needed me to do. I just started realizing more and more in college, yeah I'm going to keep developing throughout the years on different things I need to get better at, but I know where I sit, I know where my strong points are. And I look at guys like Iman Shumpert, Jimmy Butler, Bruce Bowen, Kawhi Leonard, I look at those guys and they're just like me. They're athletic, they're long, they're talented. They get out there and just do the little things. Play defense, get rebounds, run the floor and knock down open shots. And they're going to progressively get better throughout their careers, they're going to have the potential to be even All-Star players one day -- Jimmy Butler and Kawhi Leonard -- so I definitely look at those players highly just because they go out there and play hard and get it done every day.
Is it true you were the team barber?
Oh yeah. I used to get down with the haircuts. I kind of like to keep that in the past, too, you know? My teammates stopped paying me a long time ago. But yeah, it's something I just picked up in junior college and took with me. I was out in Twin Falls, Idaho, there are no barbers so I had to do something.
How many predraft workouts did you end up doing?
I think about 17, 16, 18, somewhere around there. I lost count, man. It was a lot, it was a lot, a lot on my body. I haven't stopped since season was done but it's been worth it. This is probably going to be the longest year I've ever had in my life but at the end of the day you've gotta pay the price for the things that you want.
Was it exhausting in the middle of it?
You know, I did hit a wall where I was just like, ‘Man, it's on the road, it's in the hotels' but I really just took a step back one day and just looked at everything. I just gotta understand that I'm blessed. I'm blessed to be here. To have the opportunities to work out for things and to have the opportunity to get drafted by the Cleveland Cavaliers at [No.] 33, it was just a real humbling, blessing experience and it really showed me a lot about myself.
I know you've described the scene before -- you were at home, you had your daughter there. But when you got drafted, what's going through your head?
Surreal. That's the word to use is surreal. It's a very, very, very surreal moment. I think I was very, very, very lost for words. Again, it was a humbling and blessing experience just to see my family's faces, see the tears and honestly I was at a loss for words. But they were proud of me and they know I'm just going to continue to chip away and just keep working out until I get where I want to get.
I heard you did an internship with Fox Sports. How'd that go?
It was good ... I did a little podcast, a little broadcasting deal with them and I was posting blogs about our season and what we were doing as a team. It was real cool ‘cause it gave me a chance to really get out there and do something different besides basketball, show my other talents. Overall it was a fun experience, man. I wouldn't change it for the world.
If you did that I would assume you're sort of thinking about doing that on the side ...
It's something that I wouldn't mind doing. It's something that I can see myself doing in the future after basketball. I don't put anything aside ... If God blessed me to go back to school and go get a Ph.D, I'll go get a Ph. D. I'm just going along on a road right now, wherever he takes me I'm just going to follow.
How have you changed since becoming a father a year ago?
A lot. There's really a lot to go into. I can just honestly say that my daughter, she changed my life. She's one of the biggest motivations I have. Just having her and just knowing that I have to represent her and go out there and be a high-character guy and go out there and make sure I'm representing myself right because I gotta do it for her. It's been a great experience and really shown me a lot and really developed me into being a young man. I mean, I still got a lot of learning to do but it's been fun along the road of being a father.
What do you really, really care about besides basketball?
Definitely say my daughter, my family. That's what comes second to me. Actually, that's what comes first to me. My family's first. That's what it's all about.