What goes up must come down. Few know that better than Carrick Felix.
Up: Leading his Millennium (Ariz.) High School team to its first-ever basketball state championship. Down: Enduring his parents’ divorce during his junior year at Millennium.
Up: Earning a starting spot at the College of Southern Idaho as a true freshman. Down: Suffering a season-ending broken wrist three games into the season.
Up: Playing so well as a redshirt freshman that Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski offers him a scholarship. Down: Going into a multi-week midseason slump amidst the recruiting hubbub.
Up: Rising up to throw down a rim-rocking alley-oop dunk in CSI’s regular-season finale. Down: Suffering a turf toe injury on the landing and watching his team fall apart down the stretch in a lopsided home loss to Eastern Utah.
“Talk about a guy that can really get up,” said CSI head coach Steve Gosar. “It’s extremes with him.”
But Felix takes a pragmatic approach to his highs and lows.
“I just feel like it’s my life lessons,” he said.
And each one has taught the athletic 6-foot-6 wing player something valuable.
The youngest of three boys to thrive on the basketball floor, Felix calls his parents’ divorce “probably one of my most life-changing experiences. It really just opened my eyes and made me realize a lot of stuff.”
As a high school senior, Felix averaged 19.7 points and 13.2 rebounds in leading Millennium to the title. But a poor academic showing during his freshman and sophomore years left his core GPA just short of NCAA Clearinghouse standards.
Only 17 when he graduated high school, Felix considered attending a prep school. But his AAU coach, Anthony Ray, connected him with Gosar and CSI. Felix wasn’t initially keen on going the junior college route, but felt right at home when he arrived in Twin Falls.
Then came the broken wrist, which turned out to be a blessing in disguise.
“Breaking my wrist just made me appreciate basketball more,” said Felix, whose father made up his first name, which the family pronounces “Car-ik” while friends and others say “Care-ik.”
“I won’t always be able to play the game,” Felix added. “My body won’t be going when I’m 50. So every time I’m on the court, no matter what, I’m going to give it my all.”
The medical redshirt season also gave him a chance to grow physically — he added 15 pounds to lanky frame — and mentally.
“When you go from playing at the high school level to the college level, that extra 15 pounds made a huge difference,” said Gosar. “At the same time, his life experiences and having to deal with an injury made him more mature.”
Felix’s maturation process started early as his father’s position in the Air Force led to him living in Las Vegas, California, Texas, Virginia and Washington D.C., before landing in Avondale, Ariz. Once there, the only moves Felix made were on the court.
Still, none of his experiences prepared him for the avalanche of recruiting attention that landed on him in late December and early January. With calls coming in from Duke, Arizona State, Marquette, Clemson and other big-name programs, Felix found himself distracted from the task at hand: leading CSI to a championship. So he decided to turn off his phone and push back the recruiting decision.
“After we win the championship at Hutch I’m just going to wait until we’re done and figure it out then,” Felix said. “I may be back here, I may be at Duke, I may be at any other school.”
He credits CSI volunteer assistant Colby Blaine for telling him the things he needed to hear to “reboot my focus.” It’s added up to Felix averaging a stat-sheet stuffing 14.9 points, 4.9 boards, 1.5 assists, 1.2 blocks and 1.2 steals.
But with his game soaring and the postseason on the horizon, last week’s toe injury became the latest stumbling block. He and his coaches believe he’ll do what he’s always done — overcome it and keep rising.
“Carrick just brings great attitude, great effort, great energy,” said Gosar. “He’s a guy that’s always on board and is going to do whatever he can to help us get a win.”
While CSI’s 19-10 season has fallen far short of expectations, Felix said his high school experience prepared him for it. While his team won a state title, it lost to a few teams it shouldn’t have along the way.
“I feel like this is kind of like my high school team,” he said. “We’ve got the right pieces. We’ve got good coaches, we’ve got good players. We’ve just had to deal with adversity. Once we get through it, and we come together, I think we’re going to be that championship team.
“There’s no doubt in my mind going into this week,” he said. “I’m fired up. I’m so ready to go.”