clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Player in Review: Felix Balamou

New, 3 comments

Did you think he'd be one of the team's best passers? One of the most efficient scorers in Big East play?

by Wendell Cruz
by Wendell Cruz

A player who had never averaged more than two points per game in his career had a chance to get some run, finally. And somewhere along the way, either a light went on inexplicably from the previous year, or the training from new staff activated Balamou. For at times, he was a decent and versatile player - and also, a very different player.

When looking at the holdovers from the previous staff, there's always the question of what the new staff did differently. But last season, the Red Storm were also trying to move on from the previous order, institute a new style of basketball while also getting some on-the-court training for the newcomers.

So while he was a bridge between experience and rawness, he wasn't experienced, and he was as raw as anyone else, but with a few more years of basketball behind him. He averaged seven points, three rebounds and got his degree, while showing a passing touch no one would have guessed that he had based on previous seasons.

And strangely, he was one of the team's most efficient scorers in Big East play... but that may be damning with faint praise.

Felix Balamou scoring stats, 2015-16 season [glossary of terms]

Player
mp
2p%
ft%
efg%
ast%
stl%
tov%
usg%
Felix Balamou
22.7
0.452
0.593
0.447
22.3
1.7
20.3
19.0
Rank on Team
7
6
9
9
3
4
9
6

Felix Balamou conference stats, 2015-16 season [glossary of terms]

Player
mp
2p%
ft%
efg%
ast%
stl%
tov%
usg%
Felix Balamou
22.3
0.475
0.524
0.476
20.2
1.7
19.0
17.6
Rank on Team
5
2
8
3
2
4
8
9

Season-high points: 20 vs Xavier, 2/3/16 (career-high)

Season-high assists: 7, twice - vs Rutgers, vs DePaul 2/25/16 (career-high)

Season-high rebounds: 11 vs Rutgers (career-high)

Season-high turnovers: 5 twice - vs Niagara, vs St. Francis (NY) (career-high)

Three things about Felix Balamou

Where the heck did this guard come from? Felix Balamou's first year saw a raw player who was supposed to be redshirted get spot minutes, then 14+ minutes a game for a five game stretch, then bench time, back and forth.

Felix Balamou's second year saw him redshirted... until Rysheed Jordan had to go back to Philly to see his sick mother before the Youngstown State game. After that game, from the Rumble's coverage:

Freshman guard Rysheed Jordan did not play on Saturday due to being home in Philadelphia to stay with his very ill mother. Although fourth year head coach Steve Lavin stated it was not a knee jerk reaction to the Jordan news, sophomore guard Felix Balamou, who had been expected to redshirt this season, was activated today and was in the starting lineup.

Jordan's return to the team is unknown, and likely depends on how his mother's health progresses in the coming days and/or weeks.

"We considered [activating Balamou] six weeks ago because Felix had been playing so well in practice," [head coach Steve] Lavin said. "His ankle injury has healed quicker than expected and his performance has continued to improve."

Balamou played three more games that season. He went back to Guinea for a stretch during the season to see his sick mother, returning before the February 1st game. He didn't play the rest of the year.

In 2015, an undermanned St. John's team stuck with their core of six rather than play Balamou or Christian Jones; though Balamou got 33 minutes against DePaul and 23 against Creighton.

Basketball is no charity. Players have to earn their time. But for a player in need of the development of a jump shot and a feel for the game as a guard, it would have been good for Balamou to get an extra year of eligibility.

Especially after last season.

The above paragraphs are an intentionally lengthy reminder that Felix Balamou looked like a player who, according to some, didn't belong in Division I - or at least not on the Big East level. And while he didn't definitively prove that he was the hero we were looking for all along, Balamou did put up some strong performances with his athletic slashing skills; and by the numbers, he was one of the more efficient members of the Red Storm, a team that struggled badly to score in many games.

Also, he did this during a run that closed the Seton Hall lead to one:

Skillwise, Balamou improved. Somewhere in there, apparently, was a ballplayer who knows how to pass very well. A slashing scorer who could get buckets in space despite being a little slower with the ball than without. And not just a wildly undersized athletic forward.

Still lacking some guard skills. Balamou was active and energetic on the floor for the Johnnies much of the time, but for all that athleticism, he couldn't hit three-pointers (which would have opened up lanes for him), didn't get to the line (needed more craftiness like freshman Malik Ellison, and better slashing moves), and cracked six or more points in only ten of eighteen games.

On five occasions, Balamou scored two points in the game on a single made field goal.

When he could get into space, he did a decent job of making plays for others - with an average of six assists per game against DePaul, five against Creighton on December 31st, four assists against Niagara when St. John's couldn't score if the hoop was a canyon. But too many times, that space wasn't there - because the team didn't have floor spacers, and Balamou's dribble skills didn't create space.

A guard who can only score from inside the arc needs a lot of skill to make that work in a way that helps the team, and Balamou needed to improve on his scoring skills, because his defense was inconsistent.

Defense? Felix Balamou is blessed with athletic gifts, but defense is also about anticipation. In his four years for St. John's, he had not become the kind of elite defender that would demand time on the floor.

Make no mistake, he has some skill and potential in that area, and for a guard, Balamou was a competent defensive rebounder. And on a team with so many issues, I'd contend that it's hard to define how much of the defensive problems fall on one player. But still.

Felix Balamou defends at the rim Wendell Cruz

Looking forward

Good luck to college graduate Felix Balamou. He doesn't have NBA interest, but perhaps some low-level European or African team would like a chance to have a US-trained athletic player roaming the wings on the attack. The frustration of playing on such a young team is over, and despite a career mostly spent on the bench, Balamou got to go out with a bit of a bang, with some moments to cherish.

Again: good luck to Felix Balamou.