The epitome of fulfilling dreams. Slippery Rock University men’s basketball guard and forward Khalid Gates has been grinding since the start.
Gates began playing basketball at a later stage than most, beginning his junior year of high school at Washington high school in Maryland where he grew up. While he started playing basketball later in his life, there was never a lack of athleticism prior. Gates was a standout football player exemplifying exquisite abilities even with his size. He would later find a way to translate that size into basketball.
Players that he watched and modeled his game after include Giannis Antetokounmpo and Kevin Durant due to their playmaking and finishing abilities. These are the players that Gates resembled during his days of pick-up.
Growing up, Gates played pick-up around plenty of players in his town that ended up going to division one schools. This influenced a strong competitive nature at a young age.
The competitive nature and interest in basketball clearly did not spark from nothing, it was something that has been instilled in his family and in his blood.
“My dad was an ex-professional player, and my brothers and sisters all also played basketball,” Gates said. “One day we were just playing [Gates father and himself] and he was pushing me to see what I could do, and it just went from there.”
An athletic family helped Gates become a great player in a short period of time. However, he had to work hard for everything and was given nothing for free.
Gates played AAU ball the summer of his junior year going into his senior year of high school. Here, he learned the level that he would begin to compete with for the next portion of his career.
“I played AAU and that’s when I realized how to really play basketball better,” Gates said. “Then I just started training from there.”
Due to his basketball journey beginning later than most, Gates left high school with no offers and took the route of junior college to continue chasing a dream. The jump from high school to junior college level was the biggest Gates had experienced yet.
“The biggest challenge was adversity,” Gates said. “In basketball, everything is up and down and sometimes things might not go your way. Like in my first year I averaged not even seven points a game and I just kept working to where in my sophomore year everything went up.”
With the competition rising at a fierce pace, Gates found himself leveling up once again, gaining more skill than ever, along with even more opportunities.
“My first year I had about three [scholarship offers],” Gates said. “My second year I had over twenty.”
Clearly, the work was starting to pay off for Khalid. Even throughout times such as the pandemic, Gates found ways to work hard and earn everything that was coming to him. Gates mentioned that during the pandemic and gyms being closed, he was forced to work on more technical sides of his game. This featured skills such as ball-handling and staying in the correct shape by going on runs outside.
Gates was receiving offers from plenty of PSAC schools such as Kutztown, West Chester, and Millersville. The rising star mentioned offers from other division two schools and even a few division one schools reached out. Even with all the other schools showing great interest, Gates still landed at Slippery Rock.
“I saw how players games here were similar to mine, and I was thinking this could be the perfect place for me.” Gates said.
Gates ended up making the correct decision. Since joining the team, he has found great chemistry with teammates Lashon Lindsey and Amante Britt. These team leaders have been mentors to Gates and helped him compete in a tough PSAC division.
“The competition went up. There are more people whose game is similar to mine now,” Gates said. “I have to outwork them and come out on top.”
Junior college was faster paced for players, but Gates said that in the PSAC, the mental state of the game and IQ that is needed is the highest he has ever experienced; therefore, making it the most difficult level he has ever played at.
Gates presents beautiful motifs in terms of describing his journey. From the beginning he has battled adversity. Whether it is following his fathers footsteps, overcoming the challenge of playing late, or battling through obstacles such as COVID-19, Gates has always found a way to prevail.