Aztecs get commitment from grad transfer who averaged 17.5 points

Ke’Jhan “KJ” Feagin had been to Viejas Arena before, while he was in high school and tagged along with his older sister for her student orientation at San Diego State.

“I didn’t remember it being that huge,” said Feagin, a 6-foot-1 guard who averaged 17.5 points at Santa Clara as a junior before sitting out this season injured. “When I saw it packed up to the brim, I was really in awe.”

He saw it Wednesday night for SDSU’s 65-57 win against No. 6 Nevada, the highest-ranked team the Aztecs have ever defeated. He completed his recruiting visit Thursday, and Friday morning he cancelled a March trip to Oregon and formally committed to SDSU.

Feagin is on track to get his degree from Santa Clara in June, making him eligible immediately for his final season under the NCAA’s graduate transfer regulations.

The Aztecs lose senior guards Devin Watson and Jeremy Hemsley, but Feagin will pair with Washington State junior transfer Malachi Flynn to give the Aztecs arguably the best backcourt in the Mountain West and maybe the West, period. They averaged a combined 33.3 points and 8.3 assists last season at their former schools.

Both have played both the point and shooting guard positions, giving SDSU coach Brian Dutcher the ability to diversify his offensive attack and make it less predictable from systems with a single, primary ballhandler.

“In today’s game, you see a lot of guards playing together, a lot of backcourt duos,” Feagin said. “I actually played against Malachi at Santa Clara, and I have a lot of respect for his game. I saw him at practice (Thursday), and I could just see our games meshing really well. He’s more of a dynamic scorer than me. I have the ability to get him the ball if he gets going. There’s no ego coming from my end at all.

“When you have a great backcourt, it can take you anywhere. With the work that I’ve seen the guys putting in and I hear about, paired with my work ethic, I feel like we can accomplish anything.”

Feagin began the 2018-19 season intending to finish his career at Santa Clara, the only school that actively recruited him out of Long Beach Poly High. He averaged 11.4, 14.6 and 17.5 points in his first three years while shooting just under 40 percent behind the 3-point arc, and seemed poised for a big senior year.

But in the second game against UC Irvine, he was whistled for a foul reaching for the ball and felt searing pain in his thumb. Trainers wrapped it up and he finished the game, only for X-rays to confirm the next day that it was broken.

He faced six weeks of rehab for the hand, then underwent foot surgery on Dec. 27 to repair an old injury, wiping out the rest of the season.

“After that, things just kind of got sour, I guess,” said Feagin, who begins rehab on his foot next week that will last through May. “You could tell that things just weren’t the same with me and the coaching staff. It was just time to move on, and they probably felt that I didn’t want to be there. I felt like it wasn’t a surprise when I announced I was transferring.

“I’ll have a chance to rehab and get my body right, and then I’ll be able to give my all to San Diego State.”

His list of finalists also included Oregon, Cincinnati and Northwestern. His first recruiting visit was to SDSU this week, and he never got any further.

“Even before I came on the visit, San Diego State was high on my list because it was a want for me and a need for me,” Feagin said. “Devin Watson and Jeremy Hemsley are both leaving. And being at the Nevada game, just seeing the atmosphere, I never got that (at Santa Clara). Playing in front of 12,000, being only an hour and 30 minutes away from home, my parents and family being able to see me play every game, that’s something I can’t pass up.”

It is the second recruiting victory for first-year assistant coach Jay Morris, who was hired to replace Tim Shelton when he followed Justin Hutson to Fresno State last spring. Morris was instrumental in beating Fresno State for 6-7 high school senior Keshad Johnson from Oakland. Now he helped land Feagin by using his connections with his family in Long Beach.

Morris and the Aztecs also have been pursuing Trey Pulliam, a 6-3 point guard from Navarro Community College in Texas, and Feagin’s commitment does not appear to cool their interest in him given their need for backcourt reinforcements.

Pulliam came on a recruiting visit last week and attended Saturday’s game against Boise State at Viejas Arena.

Interviewed at halftime, he called SDSU “my favorite school right now,” although he is starting to draw Pac-12 and Big 12 interest. Asked if a commitment from Feagin might alter his decision, Pulliam said: “It won’t affect me that much. I’m all for competition. They need more than just me anyway. They need more guards.”

SDSU will have at least three scholarships available for 2019-20: the two from Watson and Hemsley, plus one that Dutcher opted to hold this season.

Feagin and Johnson account for two. That leaves one still open and possibly more if Jalen McDaniels turns pro, as most expect, or someone else leaves.

The Aztecs remain a finalist for McDaniels’ younger brother, Jaden, a top 5 prospect from the high school class of 2019. He also took visits to Kentucky, Texas, Washington and UCLA.

mark.zeigler@sduniontribune.com; Twitter: @sdutzeigler

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