Helias grad Feldmann makes most of opportunity for Missouri

Missouri’s Danny Feldmann leaps into the Davidson bench to save the ball from going out of bounds during the second half of Tuesday night’s first round game of the NIT in Columbia. Missouri won 85-77.

Missouri’s Danny Feldmann leaps into the Davidson bench to save the ball from going out of bounds during the second half of Tuesday night’s first round game of the NIT in Columbia. Missouri won 85-77. Photo by The Associated Press.

COLUMBIA, Mo. — Danny Feldmann finally got his chance. The seldom-used Missouri forward took full advantage.

After playing just 19 minutes all season, the Helias High School graduate earned 22 minutes of playing time during Missouri’s 85-77 victory against Davidson in the first round of the National Invitation Tournament on Tuesday night at Mizzou Arena. The junior scored four points on 2-of-3 shooting to go along with four rebounds and one monster dunk.

“I told him he was going to play,” Missouri head coach Frank Haith said. “I couldn’t put anybody else in. But I trust Danny. He works his tail off. Danny played at Columbia (University), so he’s a pretty good player. You never know when your opportunity comes, and obviously he took advantage of it tonight.”

Feldmann entered the ball game at the 16:20 mark of the first half. His first play recorded in the scorebook was an airballed 3-pointer at the 14:46 mark.

“It was at the end of the shot clock,” Feldmann said. “I was trying to force it up a little bit. It came off wrong, obviously it didn’t look very good.”

The rest of his night was the complete opposite. His 22 minutes were more than starter Keanau Post (11) and reserve Torren Jones (10) combined.

“I was expecting to play a little bit,” Feldmann said. “I wasn’t sure how much it would be. I just knew I was going to play as hard as I could for every second I was in there.”

Feldmann picked up his first points of the season as the clock ticked down toward halftime. Feldmann grabbed a Jabari Brown missed layup and put it back in the basket with eight seconds to go before the intermission.

“Danny really stepped up,” Brown, who scored a game-high 30 points, said. “He’s real smart. He knows everywhere he’s supposed to be on the court, offense and defense. He’s not afraid to try to make plays. When the opportunity presented itself, he did that.”

Later, with the Tigers down 67-64, Feldmann cut baseline and jammed home a thunderous two-handed slam to get a diehard crowd of 2,403 on its feet. Missouri rallied to take the lead from there.

“Dunk felt pretty good,” Feldmann said. “Johnathan Williams did a great job of clearing out some space for me and I was able to get up and cram it home.”

While Feldmann’s momentum-shifting dunk might have come as a surprise to those in attendance Tuesday night, it’s nothing his teammates haven’t seen before.

“We know Danny can get up a little bit,” Brown said with a wry smile.

With the status of suspended guards Wes Clark and Shane Rector still in doubt, as well as the continued absence of forward Tony Criswell, Feldmann could continue to see extended time throughout the remainder of Missouri’s potential NIT run.

“My role is the same,” Feldmann said. “To provide energy and be workhorse.”

Aside from the four points and four rebounds, it might have been Feldmann’s defense that kept him on the court for that amount of time. The junior split time between the 3 and 4 positions, playing mostly on the perimeter in the first half before mixing it up in the second half.

“I feel comfortable in both,” Feldmann said. “That’s one of the things they tell me in practice, is to know every position.”

Feldmann’s defense sure caught the attention of Haith.

“He knows the back line of our zone,” he said. “The coverage was outstanding between (Feldmann) and (Williams) and (Ryan) Rosburg. … We were able to get to their shooters and use our length. Danny’s a pretty long guy (at 6-foot-9). He and Ryan were terrific.”

It must have seemed like a dream come true for Feldmann, who had to be tracked down after learning a group of about a dozen reporters wanted to speak with him after his big game.

“Holy cow, there’s a lot of you here,” an incredulous Feldmann quipped as he walked back into the locker room.

After growing up in Jefferson City and attending Helias, Feldmann attended Ivy League school Columbia his freshman year, averaging 1.0 points in 8.1 minutes of playing time. He opted to transfer to Missouri and is currently in his second season with the Tigers. He averages 0.4 points in 4.1 minutes of playing time this year.

“Growing up my whole life I watched Mizzou basketball,” Feldmann said. “Being able to come in and provide a spark as a Mizzou Tiger felt really great.”

And maybe, just maybe, Tuesday’s performance will prove to be the impetus behind Haith trusting Feldmann with more playing time.

“It’s a little difficult (not playing much), but I work hard every day in practice so that I’m ready when I do get a chance,” Feldmann said.

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