Paying it Forward

By Jammel Cutler #33

When someone does right by you, you should do your best in extending the same to the next person.

It’s definitely something Khris Middleton believes. The Bucks swingman attended Porter-Gaud School, a private high school in his hometown of Charleston, S.C., where he was a standout student and basketball player in his five years [he started attending in eighth grade] there.

If not for the help of financial help from donors, Middleton would not have been afforded the opportunity to attend Porter-Gaud and now he’ll be returning the favor to future students. Middleton recently made a five-year pledge of $1 million for scholarships to underserved and minority students  in the Charleston area.

“The goal of my scholarship is to provide funding for a diverse group of students, who without help, would not have the financial means to attend Porter-Gaud. I dedicate much of my success to what I learned inside and outside of the classroom at Porter-Gaud, and I want to give that same opportunity to other kids in Charleston,” says Khris Middleton.

We sat with Middleton to more about the scholarship, among other things.

David Liam Kyle/NBAE via Getty Images

How important is it for you to provide this for underprivileged students?

It’s huge for me to help all kids, kids are our future if we give them all the tools they can do anything they want in this world. For me, it’s trying to put kids in the right situation, and give them the opportunity to succeed in whatever field they choose. 

Did you have many educational experiences such as the one that you’re currently providing growing up in South Carolina?

I went to a private high school [Porter-Gaud School], my parents received help from a lot of anonymous donors that I’m truly grateful for. It’s cool that I’m in the position to help kids do the same thing that was given to me.

How was the educational system for you growing up before you went to private school?

It was rough. I went to public school up into seventh grade my parents felt like private school was going to help me be a better leader so they stressed a private school education. It was a dramatic change for me, but I needed it for college, and for after college.

What’s the difference between public and private school?

It was different, in public school you have everyone from your neighborhood, and the surrounding neighborhoods, it was fun, but going to private school is different, you have all these types of kids from all over Charleston that were all about their education. It was a huge change for me and it took me a while to adjust, but looking back it was the best decision that I made. 

Do you think if lower economic communities had access to better education, it would reduce crime and poverty?

Definitely. If you take them out their situation and put them in an environment where everyone is focused on you, they help you understand what you need to know in the real world. If you take someone out of a negative setting and put them in a setting where they can thrive it will do nothing but help them.

Violence in our communities is an everyday occurrence. How did the Charleston shooting affect you and your family?

It was tough around the community. I have some friends that knew some of the victims. Charleston is a small place but it’s a great city where many people are connected. It defiantly affected a lot of people here and around the country but in Charleston, we pulled together. I think everyone did a great job of letting the shooter [Dylan Roof] know that what he did wasn’t going to help, he was doing things for the wrong cause. We weren’t going to let this incident separate anybody. It unified us. Charleston was made stronger because of that.

Did you think that something like this could happen in modern times?

I’m shocked that people still think that way. What happened in Charleston shocked me. You really don’t go about your day thinking today can be a mass shooting, but the way the gun laws are, it’s something that can happen.

What is your take on gun control in America?

If gun laws had more restrictions it would be fewer people in possession of guns. 

Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

How would you assess the Bucks season this far? 

It’s been a roller coaster season for us so far, we’ll go on these four-game win streaks, then lose two or three in a row, we’re just having a problem with staying consistent now, we’re heading in the right direction, we’re learning we just have to be more consistent on a game-to-game basis. 

What do you think would help improve the consistency of the team?

Just growing up, we’re all still young, I’m just 26 in my sixth season in the League, but our main guy Giannis just turned 23 so we’re going to be inconsistent at times trying to figure out how to develop great habits every day, it’s just a process we’re going through right now. We still have a great chance to have a good season.

What is it like playing with a guy with the physical skill set of Giannis Antetokounmpo? 

It’s crazy. You don’t see anyone else like that. The closest person to him is LeBron and he’s on a whole different level, but Giannis approaches the game in a different way. Giannis length and athleticism is crazy, and how hard he plays is definitely a talent and the skill set that he possesses. When I play next to him I try to make his job easier.

Do you guys ever go at it during practice?

Yea, we have our battles in practice we guard and challenge each other, I try to use my mind just to mess with him, and force him to do things that he usually wouldn’t do, and for me he uses his length, it’s tough for me to get my shot up around him, it forces me to think the game out and use my skill set to my advantage.

What is your stance on position-less basketball? Do you see it as something that’s going to take over the League in years to come?

That’s how we play. I played the center position at times, we have guys who can play basketball and not worry about who’s the point guard, small forward and whatnot. It makes the game easier especially on the defensive side, you get to take teams out of their plays, you can cover your mistakes with length. On the offensive end, it’s a matchup nightmare, you have centers trying to guard the guards, and guards trying to guard the center, it’s great for us.

Do you think the League is headed in this direction, where players don’t have a defined position?

I think it is, if you look at the Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavalries, two of the best teams in the League, their best lineups are when LeBron James and Draymond Green are playing center, so the NBA is definitely trending that way.

Layne Murdoch/NBAE via Getty Images

Did you ever imagine that this style of play would take over the League? 

It was hard for me to see at first, but you can see it’s working—the bigs are coming three-point shooters instead of low post scorers—but I this is a great thing for the League. It’s more exciting to watch so I’m a fan of it. 

Do you think the NBA will ever go back to having their bigs play with their back to the basket as opposed to facing the basket?

I think it could when you see how dominant Joel Embiid is. I think eventually it’ll trend back there. 

The NBA is full of young players, what do you think about Ben Simmons and the way he’s developed?

I think he’s a great player. Unfortunately, last year he was hurt so he had to sit out. He used that as a “redshirt year” where he can sit back and watch the NBA—how he can affect the game and how he can fit in with his team. I think he’s a great player that can do many things on the court.  

When LeBron hits his decline or leaves Cleveland (whichever comes first), can you see the Bucks and the Sixers becoming the two next powerhouses in the Eastern Conference?

I can see it, hopefully, we’ll get there, we have a long way to go especially with the way LeBron is playing now, it’s a goal of ours to be one of the top teams in the East, it’s a lot of work, but I think we can do it. We just have to keep working we can’t really worry about that right now and not get too ahead of ourselves.

Who are some the toughest players that you had to guard?

LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Steph Curry. James Harden is having a hell of a year right now. Bradley Beal is scoring the ball at a crazy level, he just scored 51 the other night. There are a lot of dangerous players in the NBA right now that just keep getting better. Victor Olapido is one—he’s worked on his jump shot and you can see that it’s paying off. There really aren’t any nights off in the NBA anymore.

Who are some of your favorite players all time or current players that you enjoy watching play?

Michael Jordan is one, you can’t have a list without him. Kobe Bryant, then I’ll go with T-Mac, Shaq, Magic. Allen Iverson was also a beast during his playing time.

You played against LeBron who when it’s all said and done will be one of the best players to ever play. What was it like playing against Kobe Bryant the person who had the title of the best player in the world prior to LeBron during his final seasons in the League? 

It was cool, I wish I got the chance to play against him in his prime, so I could see how hard of a cover he was, but playing on the same court as him and guarding his was pretty cool.