The Right Fit
Texas A&M’s Khris Middleton is impressing NBA scouts after injury-riddled season.
by Ed Isaacson / @nbadraftblog
The ‘11-12 season was going to be a breakout year for Texas A&M’s junior forward Khris Middleton.
Coming off a sophomore year where he was named Second-Team All-Big 12, Middleton was a member of the pre-season All-Big 12 Team and also on the watch list for the prestigious Wooden and Naismith Awards. Texas A&M was also primed for a big season as they kicked off their season against Liberty, but 10 minutes into the game, it looked like both the Aggies and Middleton’s big years were done. Middleton had suffered a partially torn meniscus in his right knee.
Surgery to repair his knee was successful, and Middleton returned a month later, playing as well as he had before, including 24 points in 28 minutes in his return. Though various other injuries—including Middleton missing five more games at the end of January after re-injuring his knee—ended up derailing the season for Texas A&M, Middleton still had a very good season. In the Aggies’ last game, Middleton scored 24 points, with 4 steals and 3 assists against eventual national runner-up Kansas.
The table was set for a huge senior year. Middleton could give NBA teams a full, injury-free season to watch what he could do. It wasn’t going to happen.
“After the season was over, my knee was feeling really good,” Middleton explained. “I discussed my options with my family, and we all thought I was ready.”
Middleton was leaving school and putting his name into the NBA Draft. It wasn’t entirely shocking; many Draft experts thought before the season that Middleton would be a future NBA player. But many also assumed after the injury and missed games that Middleton would want one more chance for that breakout season. He didn’t need it.
Middleton came to Texas A&M out of high school with a reputation as a scorer, but he barely resembles the player he was three years ago.
“Every aspect of my game developed in college,” Middleton said. “Mentally, physically and skill-wise, I learned a lot of different things from my coaches.”
Even having a new head coach, Billy Kennedy, helped Middleton become a better player last season.
“Playing for both Coach [Mark] Turgeon and Coach Kennedy, I learned different ways to strategize,” Middleton continued. “It was good for me playing for two coaches who were so different.”
It is easy to see why NBA scouts had been paying attention to him since he first got to Texas A&M. At 6-8, he has great size for a scorer on the wing. He can hit jumpers, get to the rim, and hit the offensive boards. “My biggest strength is my ability to make shots anywhere on the court,” Middleton said. “I’ve been working on being able to hit the NBA three consistently.
Scouts and NBA personnel had the chance to see Middleton’s progress recently at the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago.
“I think I showed that I was healthy, that my knee was fine,” Middleton said. “I was able to show a lot of different parts to my game. Plus, I interviewed well. I think I shocked teams who didn’t know how I was going look out there.”
Middleton has also been busy giving teams a close up of what he is capable of doing. He has worked out for six or seven teams already, and he said he has at least six more teams scheduled before the Draft.
“I am versatile with my size and my ability to spread the court,” Middleton replied when asked how he could help a team immediately. “I have been working on getting stronger, and have made a lot of progress there.”
In the end, an extra year in school may have helped Khris in some ways, but any NBA team that drafts him is going to still get a very good player.
“I can score, spread the floor, and have a high basketball IQ,” Middleton said.
Those skills may get Middleton into the NBA, but we will probably see a lot more from him as he continues to develop.