LATTA, S.C. - After seven full seasons, Raymond Felton was accustomed to life in the NBA. But it was this time last year when he decided to come back to the New York Knicks, becoming the replacement for overnight sensation Jeremy Lin. Prepared for the challenge though, Felton came out and had the best year of his now eight-year career.
"Overall, we had a great year," Felton said. "We did some great things for the team that hadn't been done in 13 years, and it was fun."
He made the most of this season by averaging more than 13 points per game, and leading the team in assists and steals. Though bright lights haven't always been a part of his career, and his growing up in the Pee Dee is what has helped him stay grounded.
"This (place) is very special to me," he said. "This is where it all started. The backbone of where I came from, that's just where the grind, and the hustle and the grit, that's where I get all that from. Just being from a small town and really having to battle. Just because we're from a small town down here, not everyone knows we can play basketball as well."
"His work ethic, his dedication - it's just great to say I've been a part of it," said Mark Gerald, the head coach at Mullins High School, and Felton's AAU coach from his teen years.
From the hallways of Latta High School to becoming the fifth overall pick in the NBA Draft, Felton has worked his way from the Pee Dee to playing with the best in the world - which is why he makes a point to come back home every year and explain that hard work pays off, at the Raymond Felton Basketball Camp.
"(The camp) is all about getting better," Felton explained. "I got a great group of kids here, and I tell them, 'if you don't get an award, that should make you work harder next year to get an award.'"
"They get the same thing here as they do in those big camps," said Gerald. "Your Carolinas, Duke, any of those camps, we will teach you the same stuff here."
The drills and games at the camp are just the beginning though. Entire summers in the gym and workouts as early as 6:30 in the morning are what helped Felton win high school and NCAA championships, and the reward is well worth it for both him and his fans.
"When I go to a game at Madison Square Garden or somewhere, and I see him out there, it's just like 'is that really Raymond that grew up here?' - and it's just great," said Gerald.
"I'm trying to give kids hope around here, and just because we're from a small area doesn't mean you can't go off and try and do big things," Felton went on to explain. "You always have to set goals and dreams for yourself, set standards, and just go for it."