College coaches often talk about wanting to make an impact on the lives of students. But few back up that claim like George Felton.
The one-time head coach at the University of South Carolina, and current Director of College Player Personnel for the NBA's San Antonio Spurs, was talking six years ago with a friend, Father Patrick Stenson, about the Holy Land. Stenson told Felton that there is a Catholic university Bethlehem University in the West Bank and encouraged Felton to visit. Citing his deep-rooted Catholic faith, Felton went, and was drawn to the school and its mission.
"I walked around, and they asked if I would talk to some of the students," Felton says. "I talked to one of the Brothers in charge of fund-raising, and Brother Peter Bray, the school's Vice Chancellor and President. I said, 'How can I help?'"
His gesture led to return trips to the campus, during which he has given lectures, less about basketball and more about "leadership and life." He formed relationships with faculty and students and the university in general. A scholarship now carries the name of his late son, Bobby Felton; the first recipient of the Bobby Felton Scholarship, who would have had to drop out of school without it, graduates this spring, and George Felton will be in attendance. Meanwhile, the school which has no basketball team named an on-campus court George Felton Court.
Now Felton is making good on his offer to help raise funds, through Heritage Auctions
' Private NBA Collection Proceeds benefiting Bethlehem University that closes June 5 on HA.com. The event is a testament to Felton's career in basketball; after his time as the Gamecocks' head coach and before spending the last 15 years (and counting) with the Spurs, Felton also served as a scout for the Indiana Pacers.
The auction includes 22 lots for the most serious basketball collectors, including:
A ball signed by legendary player (and current Charlotte Hornets owner) Michael Jordan
A basketball signed by Larry Bird, the NBA Hall of Famer who won three NBA championships and three Most Valuable Player awards over 14 seasons as a player before becoming a coach and executive with the Pacers
A ball signed by Mike Krzyzewski, the legendary Duke coach who retired after the 2021-22 season with more victories than any coach in the history of college basketball
Several lots signed by members of the Spurs, including a ball signed by forward Tim Duncan, guards Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili and head coach Gregg Popovich, a 2007 Sports Illustrated signed by Duncan, a 2007 Spurs Championship hat signed by Duncan and Parker, a painting signed by Duncan, Ginobili and Parker and a basketball signed by LaMarcus Aldridge.
A ball signed by TNT studio host Ernie Johnson and analysts/NBA legends Kenny Smith, Shaquille O'Neal and Charles Barkley
Proceeds from the auction will be donated to Bethlehem University's Student and Visitor Center, which, according to the school's website, "
will operate as the headquarter of the community of the University, for all members of our University family: students, faculty, staff, alumni, and guests. It is not only a building; it is also a collective and comprehensive empowerment program that the University seeks to offer." Among the features planned for the center: student learning and recreation areas, fully accessible areas and services for students with disabilities, sports and fitness areas for thousands of students and 400 faculty and staff, and a 150-seat lecture theater.
"This is such a wonderful university, in the birthplace of Jesus," Felton says. "They do so much for so many, but there is still so much they need. This is so personal, from a faith-given aspect of my life. I've been blessed in a lot of different ways, and I want to do what I can to help this school.
"The people who signed items for this sale, who gave to this auction, they did so because of relationships I have been lucky enough to develop with them throughout my career. My career in basketball has done a lot for me, and now people's love for basketball can help a wonderful school."