It was a rough start to Rakym Felder’s college career. Less than a semester after arriving on campus, the freshman was arrested in Five Points for disorderly conduct and assault.
Now, entering his second semester with basketball season in full swing, he’s relishing his second chance. Felder was suspended indefinitely after the altercation, but he wasn’t worried about his career ending before it began.
“He was more disappointed in me. It was like a father-son conversation,” Felder said of his conversation with head coach Frank Martin. “We’re just going to move forward from here and not take any steps back. He made me feel like he was here for me and he’s never going to turn on me.”
That chance came in South Carolina’s second game of the year. The suspension was lifted and he played 14 minutes against Holy Cross, scoring eight points on 2-for-2 shooting.
He’s played in every game since the Holy Cross game and has averaged 2.6 points and 11.9 minutes.
“I went to the front office and thanked everyone for giving me a second chance. This university is great and I wouldn’t want to be anywhere but here,” Felder said. “This is my dream school so when I found out I got that second chance I just got that feeling. I don’t play anymore, everything’s business.”
Now, Felder gets to shoulder a heavier workload with leading scorer and senior leader Sindarius Thornwell suspended indefinitely for violation of athletic department policy.
The freshman from Brooklyn is now helping run the backcourt behind guards P.J. Dozier and Duane Notice. He played 25 minutes against Florida International and nine against Seton Hall. Felder said he’s still trying to live up to what Thornwell has been to the Gamecocks.
“I’m a freshman so I’m still getting used to the offense, the rotations. But on defense I feel like he has pretty good shoes to fill,” Felder said. “I’m trying to match his intensity.”
Felder credits his maturation process to competing with established guards Thornwell, Duane Notice and P.J. Dozier, all of whom played under Martin and know what to expect.
“I’m playing against Sindarius, Duane Notice, P.J. Dozier who’s an All-American and future first round draft pick," he said. "That feeling you get everyday is you can’t take days off when you’re playing against those type of guys.”
Felder is still learning the ropes at South Carolina but will continue to get better he says with more reps in practice. It’s been business-as-usual for him heading into the spring semester as he’s still savoring his second chance.
“I knew Frank had my back and he wouldn’t give up on me because of the relationship we built before I got here. Since day one he was going to have my back,” Felder said. “I just want to repay him by going hard every day, getting good grades and being that leader that he expects me to be.”