Point guard Javan Felix did not expect to play such a big role this season at the University of Texas, where he is one of two Longhorns to start every game.
As a freshman, Felix is averaging more than 35 minutes a game, tops in the Big 12 Conference.
Felix, though, has embraced the opportunity. Entering tonight’s game against Texas Tech, he leads the nation in assists per game for freshmen (6.0). His on-court decisions are coming quicker now, his management of games crisper.
While his game is still evolving, the New Orleans native has shown enough promise during a trying season in Austin to have a shot at becoming the next great point guard at Texas, known recently for producing pro talent at the position.
The list ranges from T.J. Ford and Daniel Gibson to Cory Joseph and D.J. Augustine, a former Brother Martin standout.
“I grew up watching those guys,” said Felix, who prepped at St. Augustine. “They had a lot of success here.”
Now it’s his turn. He’s averaging 8.8 points a game, third on the team.
The Longhorns (8-10) need his scoring and even more important, his ballhandling and decision making, where he’s expected to push the ball as much as possible.
Texas wants to get as many shots as it can in transition, which often starts with Felix getting the ball to teammates Sheldon McClellan and Julien Lewis, the Longhorns’ leading scorers.
Often times, the pair will not be wide open, assistant coach Russell Springmann said. The duo is typically matched against opponents’ top defenders. But it’s Felix’s job to get them involved even when passing lanes shrink.
Like any freshman, his season has included highs and lows.
In December, Felix logged a season-high 11 assists in a loss at Michigan State. Earlier this month, he scored a season-high 26 points in a losing effort at Baylor. Then on Monday, he scored two points on 1-for -5 shooting with three assists and three turnovers at Oklahoma. Texas lost, 73-67.
What has made Felix’s freshman year delightful is his ability to be his toughest critic, to embrace his shortcomings as opportunities for growth.
Felix’s reminder list includes: hands up on defense, look ahead more in transition and stay in front of the ball better.
“He’ll bring to you things he should have done better, and that’s refreshing,” Springmann said. “You have a kid like him that’s tried to do everything he can. I think that’s why he’s been successful up to this point.”
Felix led St. Augustine to appearances in the Class 5A and 4A state title games as a junior and senior, winning the 4A championship as a junior. He was named the 2011 Louisiana 5A Player of the Year.
He’s hoping that continued improvements will lead to similar success at Texas.
“Our season definitely hasn’t been going the way we wanted it to go,” Felix said. “But there’s definitely been some positives. We’re trying to work to finish games.
“Once we figure that out, we’ll be in a way better place than we are in right now.”