What Jalek Felton’s attorney says about his decision to leave UNC
Jalek Felton has played his final men’s basketball game at North Carolina and has withdrawn from the university after the school suspended him late last month amid an investigation into his conduct.
“Essentially they kicked him out without giving him his rights,” Kerry Sutton, the Durham-based attorney who has represented Felton, said during a brief interview on Thursday. “It’s disturbing.”
Felton, the most heralded member of UNC’s freshman class, was suspended while the university gathered evidence amid allegations of misconduct. Sutton, his lawyer, declined to specify details of those allegations, but she said they involved “very serious personal stuff.”
Sutton specializes in part in representing college students who have been accused of wrongdoing that results in university Title IX investigations. Often, those investigations concern allegations of sexual assault or sexual misconduct, though Sutton wouldn’t say that is what Felton is facing.
Felton faces no criminal charges. He has not been arrested. He has missed five weeks of classes, Sutton said, and while she acknowledged that it’s possible he could be cleared, she said that Felton would not return to UNC, regardless.
“We have a problem with how he has been treated,” Sutton said. “And this is far from over. He had UNC’s back when they were up against the wall with the NCAA. He was the only five-star recruit that would even talk to them. UNC in a heartbeat turned their back on him.
“And that broke his spirit. He doesn’t want to stay here anymore.”
Felton, a native of Mullins, S.C., is the nephew of Raymond Felton, who was a UNC All-American point guard who helped lead the Tar Heels to the 2005 national championship. The younger Felton was the first high school player in the class of 2017 to commit to playing for UNC, and did so in 2014.
He arrived amid high expectations, but Felton’s transition to college was not smooth. Before the season began, UNC coach Roy Williams said that Felton might be the team’s most talented player, but the praise came with a caveat – that Felton, among other things, didn’t understand “hard work,” as Williams put it.
“If I can get him to be more focused and tougher,” Williams said at the time, “I think he’s got a chance to be a really good player and really help us.”
Sutton said she met on Thursday morning with Williams and informed the coach of Felton’s plans to withdraw from school. She said Williams was “broken up” about the situation.
Felton, who played in 22 games and averaged 2.9 points, is the first player to leave UNC under questionable circumstances since 2014, when the university dismissed P.J. Hairston after he received impermissible benefits in the form of high-end luxury rental cars.
Unlike the Hairston case, though, details about Felton’s situation have remained scant. Even if the university eventually cleared Felton of wrongdoing, Sutton said he has missed too many classes for him to catch up academically this semester.
In withdrawing from UNC, Felton can now communicate with other schools about transferring. Felton in a statement that Sutton released said that playing at UNC had been “a dream come true.” Now, he said, “it’s time for a new dream.”