New Albany senior Michael Maxwell, the starting center on the top-ranked basketball team in Indiana and a three-sport athlete for the Bulldogs, has gone through tough times. His father was killed during Michael’s freshman year, and he works a part-time job three days a week to help his family. Basketball is his “therapy.”
Courier-Journal: How do you handle the pressure of playing for the No. 1 team in the state?
Michael Maxwell: You just need to come out there and play like you know you can play. We’re ranked that way for a reason, so we just have to make it happen.
C-J: Your teammate, sophomore Romeo Langford, gets a lot of attention. What are the benefits of playing alongside one of the top players in the nation?
Maxwell: It’s a great thing to have. He gets so much attention. He opens up things for a lot of people. When he’s driving, if someone steps over to help, I’m open. If you don’t guard him, he can score. If you do help, it leaves a lot of people open. He helps the team in so many ways.
C-J: Why would a senior who didn’t play football during his high school career suddenly decide to become a wide receiver?
Maxwell: It was my last year that I could play football, and I didn’t know we would be this good in basketball, so why not?
C-J: Are you surprised by the success?
Maxwell: It still surprises me. Being on the team, you don’t really feel like that. You know you’re No. 1, but you don’t feel like we’re the best team in the state.
C-J: You have developed a unique friendship with Macayla Lukee, a New Albany senior and special needs student. How did that come about?
Maxwell: I didn’t do it for attention. It just feels really good knowing you can make someone’s day. She looks up to people like us, and having a conversation can just make her day. I like making people’s day. She doesn’t get to do the same things we do, and some people look down on them. It’s not their fault. That’s why I try to be as nice as I can to people.
C-J: Your father (Terrance) was killed your freshman year. How does a kid handle that?
Maxwell: It was tough. In my early years, he wasn’t around that much. He had been in and out of jail, but my freshman year I started getting closer to him. The weekend he was killed, I was supposed to stay at his house. My family and basketball helped me get through it. I actually had an AAU game the day of the funeral, and it was crazy.
C-J: Do you think basketball has helped keep you from going down a wrong path?
Maxwell: It really has helped. That’s why I love it so much. When you need someone to talk to, or something to do, you can go shoot. That’s why basketball is my therapy, honestly. I love the opportunity it gives you. It gives me a chance, if you’re having a bad day, you can just go in the gym.
C-J: Who has been your role model?
Maxwell: My mom is my mom and my best friend. She’s my hero. She takes care of me and my brothers. I look up to her a lot.
C-J: In addition to playing three sports, you also work a part-time job at Texas Roadhouse. How do you find the time?
Maxwell: It’s tough, but you find a way to work through it. If there’s a will, there’s a way. Knowing my mom takes care of us, I don’t like asking her for money. I know she would, but I don’t like asking her to help me out.
C-J: As a senior on the top-ranked team, what would winning a state championship mean to you?
Maxwell: It would mean the world. It will probably be my last basketball game, and knowing I could end my last game ever on a win, with a state championship, would mean the world. I would probably carry my state championship ring everywhere and never take it off.
MICHAEL MAXWELL UP CLOSE
School: New Albany
Family: mother Ketra Taylor; brothers Ka’Dynze (12), Jamari (8)
Student/athlete: Michael also plays football and runs track. He works in the school’s financial center. He plans to attend the University of Indianapolis and major in sports management.
Coach Jim Shannon: Michael is one of the nicest kids I’ve ever coached. He has a big heart, and he’s really kind to other people. I just love him. On the team, he’s helped take the pressure off of other guys, and we’re really counting on him. I think he’s invaluable. I think he’s the key to the whole thing.