PHOTOS BY WILLIAM JOHNSON, STEPHEN CARR, AND COURTESY SAN DIEGO STATE
Long Beach Poly basketball product KJ Feagin will represent the United States on the international stage this month, playing on the USA Basketball squad that is traveling to Puerto Rico for the FIBA AmeriCup qualifiers. Feagin and the USA team will be in San Juan for a week, practicing daily and then playing the Bahamas (Feb. 19) and Mexico (Feb. 20).
A pair of wins would clinch a berth in the FIBA AmeriCup in 2022, which is part of the qualifying process for the 2024 Olympics in Paris. The team is headlined by NBA standouts Joe Johnson and Isaiah Thomas, and features other recent college standouts like Feagin.
“I’m just super thankful,” said Feagin. “It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity.”
It’s been a strange year for Feagin, continuing a unique basketball journey. Feagin was an obvious standout for the Jackrabbits, and was the CIF-SS Player of the Year as a junior. Because he was undersized, however, Feagin ended up waiting until the tail end of his senior year for his first scholarship offer, from Santa Clara. After putting in quality years of play on bad Santa Clara teams, Feagin was a grad transfer to San Diego State, where he finally got to spread his wings on the collegiate level, leading an undefeated Aztecs team to a top five national ranking with legitimate national title hopes.
Instead, the COVID-19 pandemic canceled the NCAA Tournament in 2020, and threw Feagin’s career into limbo. He had an offer to play professionally overseas, but travel restrictions in Europe as well as the usual uncertainty of unguaranteed overseas contracts nixed that plan. So Feagin has found himself, once again, just staying prepared and waiting for his opportunity to prove himself.
“I haven’t played a competitive basketball game, a real game, since almost a year ago, on March 7th with San Diego State,” he said. “I’ve just been working out every day, staying sharp. It’s a weird space to be in–just training and then this pops up. The last year, time has gone by fast but when you’re in it it’s been so slow every day. The silver lining is I know I’m not the only one going through it. One day this will end and things will pick up after that.”
Feagin acknowledged that he’s been on the stricter side of abiding by COVID-19 restrictions, and admitted that as excited as he was for the basketball opportunity, he’s just as excited to get out of the house and get to travel to a new place to play.
“For me, I don’t have anything to lose, I only have things to gain,” he said.
Feagin said that while he would maybe rather have been a five-star recruit out of high school and had a more smoothly-paved path to collegiate and pro success, he’s come to accept the winding road that he’s traveling.
“I always have to take the alternate route, so it’s getting comfortable knowing that things aren’t going to come easy to me,” he said. “But I think I appreciate success more. If I hadn’t lost like we did at Santa Clara I wouldn’t have appreciated winning at San Diego State as much. And I think I’ll appreciate this opportunity more because of the last year. My story isn’t just for me, it’s for my peers and for the next generation to see that you can still achieve things in this sport even if you’re not that superstar name. If you know you deserve it then you have to keep going.”
There aren’t many basketball players who can go from un-recruited high school senior to wearing the red, white, and blue representing their country alongside a seven-time NBA All Star, but that’s Feagin’s unique story. He’s been so focused on the details of planning the week trip that he said he hasn’t really had time to process the honor of wearing a USA Basketball jersey.
“I think that will hit me when I get there,” he said. “Right now I know I’m going but I don’t think it’ll really hit me until I’m in the gear.”