PHOENIX – At first, Carrick Felix needed a little time to grow into the concept of becoming a father. Who doesn’t? But any questions for the Arizona State swingman quickly dissolved into a focus, a maturity and a clarity of purpose that have become evident not only on the court but seemingly in every facet of his life.
Felix is playing not only for himself and his teammates this season but also for his daughter, Zayah, who is six months old. It has been his best year.
“I think everything is kind of coming into place,” Felix said.
“I feel like everything I do, all my daily habits, are going to reflect for her. I definitely don’t want a bad name for myself, let alone for my daughter. I want to make sure I can set an example for her so when she grows up she has the ground rules of where she came from.”
Felix has taken his dual role seriously. After graduating from ASU with a degree in communications, he is now enrolled in the master’s of liberal studies program. He also has stepped up his level of play in his final season, averaging 15.1 points a game as the Sun Devils (9-2) prepare for a game at Texas Tech on Saturday.
The more selfless parts of his game are the ones that stand out the most. Felix is a springy 6-foot-6, and he uses superior athleticism to disrupt opponents’ offenses. He leads ASU in steals and is second in blocked shots, rebounds and field-goal percentage. Floor burns have become a part of his game. After diving to the floor to claim a loose ball, Felix looked as if he were swimming after it while trying to gain possession in a 61-42 victory over Dartmouth last Saturday. After running into the ASU bench area while attempting to deflect a pass against Cal State Northridge two weeks ago, he recovered to race to the other end and block a layup attempt.
NBA scouts have noticed, and Felix is on their radar. Even if he is not drafted, a summer camp invitation seems assured.
“He just has matured so much,” ASU coach Herb Sendek said. “He has already demonstrated this season that he can maybe not shoot his best and greatly impact the game. He’s already demonstrated that he can weather foul trouble and stay connected and still come back and greatly impact the game. He’s already demonstrated that even on a night when he is not getting many shorts or scoring, he still can have a significant impact on the game.
“There are certain things that stand out because you can look at a stat sheet. And there are all the other things that you have to watch the game or listen to conversations to know. He’s doing so much for our team, beyond even the stat sheet. His leadership is just exemplary. His defense has been outstanding. We’ve asked him to do a great deal, and he’s delivered.”
Felix spent the summer — before and after becoming a dad — working on his game. He is more consistent now, more under control. After leading ASU in 3-point attempts last season, he vowed to be smarter in his shot selection and get closer to the basket. He benefits from point guard Jahii Carson getting him the ball in transition, but he also is posting up more and showing touch with both hands around the basket.
“Slowing down, everything just kind of came. It’s like when you can’t see and you put glasses or contacts on, everything becomes clear,” Felix said.
It is the same with his life changes. The name Zayah (ZAY-uh) came to Felix one night as if in a dream. When he woke up, he had it. He did not know it, but the name seems a perfect fit. It has roots in the Tibetan language and roughly translates into “victorious warrior,” or in the feminine, “victorious woman.” Mother and daughter live in Idaho, and Felix wishes he could be with them. He uses Skype to keep in daily contact, secure in the belief that what he is doing now is building a solid foundation.
He had long conversations with his mother, Beverly, as well as Sendek and assistant coach Dedrique Taylor late last season, when he first learned he was to be a father.
“At first, I was kind of nervous. I didn’t really know what to do,” Felix said. “Then I just let everything happen. What are the things it is going to take for me to be a great father? What I am doing for my daughter right now by going to school and playing basketball? How that is going to help her in the future? How important it is for me to get an education? It really helped me a lot.”
It is a role Felix has embraced.
“A lot of people don’t take that on, but it truly is a blessing, and it’s changed my life. I wouldn’t change anything in the world. The day I found out, I told my mom, and from that day I knew what I needed to do to fulfill that spot of being a father. I know how hard it is going to be with me playing basketball and me being busy, but I know at the same time I have to sacrifice a little bit from both sides to continue to have success. It’s hard for me sometimes not to be around my daughter, but the fact that I know in the long run I am doing what I can for her makes it a lot easier.
“I definitely can say, by me having a daughter, it gives me even more motivation to go out there every day and make sure I stay focused and make sure I give it my all. To have another thing to motivate me and strive for, that definitely pushes me on the court.”