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‘Deine’ of the Court: James Feldeine
College is often seen as the final step of the maturation process. The idea is for kids to discover themselves and grow into mature, well-rounded adults. The journey is not always an easy one.
James Feldeine knows this better than anyone. Quinnipiac’s men’s basketball team is in the midst of its best season at the Division I level, due in large part to the senior forward from New York City. The Bobcats’ fan base is growing amongst students and the Hamden community, and those who have just started paying attention know Feldeine as Quinnipiac’s go-to guy. But looking back just a few years ago, there was a very different James Feldeine.
“Coming in here, I thought I was going to be a starter right away,” Feldeine said. “That didn’t happen, and I ended up at the end of the bench. It was a struggle for me because I didn’t play for a whole year.”
During that season, Feldeine only saw 34 minutes of action and scored a mere seven points. Steve Robinson is the longest tenured Bobcat on this team along with Feldeine, and saw his struggles first-hand.
“I think his freshman year was a year that made him realize he needed to fight through stuff,” Robinson said. “His confidence was down, and he didn’t know where he was going to end up, or if this was even the right place for him. It was a real tough spot for him in his life.”
Enter head coach Tom Moore. Moore was hired three seasons ago following the dismissal of Joe DeSantis, and one of his first orders of business was to evaluate the talent he had in place, including Feldeine.
“He wanted individual workouts; he was in the gym shooting alone a lot, and what I saw from a basketball point of view was a kid who had a real soft touch and good size,” Moore said. “From a personal point of view, he looked to me like a kid who wanted to improve.”
Moore rewarded Feldeine’s work ethic immediately with 37 minutes on the floor in his first game of the 2007-08 season – more than he had played his entire freshman year. He averaged 8.3 points per game that season on a team which featured two main scorers in DeMario Anderson and Evann Baker. Following Anderson’s graduation and an injury to Baker, Moore was in need of a big-time scorer and wasn’t sure where he would find him.
“It’s a fun role, it’s the glamour and the lights and everybody wants it,” Moore said. “But when it’s handed to some of them or it’s their time to take over, they’re not good enough or ready to do it. I did have a question going into James’ junior year whether he’d be ready to do that and take the brunt of that, because a lot comes with the territory.”
Feldeine answered the call, averaging 17 points per game and earning all-Northeast Conference second team honors and the NEC’s Most Improved Player award. Now in his final season, Feldeine has put it all together according to Moore, combining his play on offense and defense with the intangibles that a leader brings to the locker room. With his maturation nearly complete, Feldeine knows that he’s playing for a lot more than himself.
His mindset has changed as this season has progressed, and he sees the stars aligning for a magical finish and a ticket to the Big Dance.
“Coming into this season, I wanted to be NEC Player of the Year and first team because I thought I got gypped last year to be on the second team,” Feldeine said. “Now I don’t care about that. It’s all about my team and about winning and getting to the Tournament. Our sophomore year, we didn’t have the pieces. Last year we were injury-prone so it was real hard. I feel like this year we’ve finally got the group of guys that is willing to work every single day in practice.”
Feldeine’s journey from benchwarmer to star has not been an easy one. He’s seen and heard all of the hype that the Tournament has to offer, and now believes it’s his turn.
“I have a lot of friends who have been to the Tournament, and I haven’t,” Feldeine said. “When I go home, they all tell me I have to get to the Tournament, that it’s so much fun. This school has never been there, so with me being a senior and being one of the leaders on this team, taking them to the Tournament would feel real great.”
Photo credit: Andrew Vazzano