Porter-Gaud shooting guard Khris Middleton has gone from unnoticed to unbelievable in just three months.
Last spring, Middleton grew four inches to 6-6, joined the Carolina Celtics AAU basketball team, showcased his skills in tournaments all over the Southeast and finally gained the attention of college recruiters.
His recruiting list now includes 36 schools and is growing daily. He's not only one of the hottest prospects in the state, but in the South, according to the Scout.com recruiting site.
"It was a matter of a month after joining the Celtics that I got the first phone call concerning Khris," Porter-Gaud coach John Pearson said. "After the first month, I started getting calls and letters for him regularly. After the third month, I started keeping a list."
That list includes South Carolina, Clemson and the College of Charleston. It's also a diverse list and includes such schools as Harvard, Virginia, Pitt, Cincinnati, Virginia Tech, Iowa and Wichita State. It's a list that should grow since Middleton is only a junior.
"It's been real exciting," said Middleton, who averaged 12 points and eight rebounds per game as a sophomore for the Cyclones. "It's really exciting getting taller and getting more exposure."
Middleton says playing in the ACC appeals to him, and Clemson and Virginia Tech are currently at the top of his list.
"I like the small-town, college atmosphere both schools offer," Middleton said. "When I visited those schools, they made me feel like I was part of their family, which I really like."
Middleton plays AAU basketball for the Celtics, a team made up from players from South Carolina and North Carolina. The Celtics, who have 10 Division I prospects on their roster, went 54-10, winning tournament championships in Washington, D.C., North Carolina, South Carolina and Atlanta, earning a No. 13 ranking nationally by Breakdown magazine. He led the team with 21 points per game. His biggest moment might have been when the Celtics played the Lowcountry Heels, which features Pinewood Prep's Milton Jennings, also one of the top juniors in the state. Middleton drove the length of the court and hit a bucket at the buzzer to give his team a two-point victory at Littlejohn Coliseum.
Pearson, who has been involved in basketball all his life, including 17 years as a coach, said he's never seen a player's stock rise so quickly.
"It's a combination of a lot of things," Pearson said. "His growth had a lot to do with it. He's always had significant skills. He was playing for a team out of Atlanta and he caught fire just about the same time he started playing for the Celtics. He fit in well, had some big scoring days and his confidence grew. He just had a great summer.
"He's got a great basketball IQ," Pearson added. "He knows the subtleties of basketball. He knows the court part of the game. He's got to work really hard on his core strength," Pearson said. The stronger he gets, it will make him improve even more. He has to get stronger."
Middleton's development has allowed Pearson to move Travis Smith from shooting guard to point guard. Middleton and Smith form one of the top guard tandems in the state as the Cyclones try to stop Jenning and Pinewood from winning its third straight SCISA title.
"We're ready to play each other," Middleton said. "That's all I can say."
Reach Philip M. Bowman at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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