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Former Lawrence North star Mike Conley includes IPS in $200,000 donation

J. Michael Indianapolis Star

Published 5:17 p.m. ET May 20, 2020 | Updated 9:16 a.m. ET May 21, 2020

Mike Conley plays for the Utah Jazz though he’ll be forever joined at the hip with the Memphis Grizzlies, where he spent most of his professional career.

During the NBA’s hiatus because of COVID-19, he’s living near Ohio State, where he went to college. He was born in Fayetteville, Ark., where his father went to college.

Mike Conley at Lawrence North and with the Utah Jazz | Scot Horner/Indy Star Photo Illustration

“One of the best portions of my life, and grew me into a man. That’s how important Indianapolis is to me,” said Conley, who won three Class 4A state title at Lawrence North High School, via conference call to announce a $200,000 donation to various charities that include Indianapolis Public Schools Foundation.

Urban Food Bank (Salt Lake), Columbus Urban League and Community Shelter Board, CodeCrew (Memphis) and New Haven Missionary Baptist Church (West Helena, Ark.) also received aid.

“As I grew up, my parents kept reiterating the importance of giving back,” said Conley, whose father, Mike. Sr., was an Olympic gold medalist in track and field. “Who knows how long my voice can mean something.”

Conley, 32, almost ended up with the Pacers before the trade deadline last year, a deal was in place to get him from Memphis until it was nixed by ownership. Conley thought he was headed here, too, but the Jazz landed him last summer instead.

“I got a lot of friends that still live there," he said of Indianapolis. "I got to grow up in the public system there. All the good work Indianapolis has been doing in its public school system, I wanted to learn more about it and do what I can as much as possible.”

Charity didn't click with him immediately. He was too young to understand. When his father took him to a charity golf event, Conley first met Michael Jordan. He was in grade school and in awe.

“It was such a blur. Once I met him I forgot about everything that was going on. I didn’t pay attention to golf or anything. I was shaken up,” Conley said. “It’s a pretty proud moment.”

He hopes to have a similar impact on others through giving, which has included mentoring children from underprivileged families in Memphis. The results aren't always instant.

Almost 10 years after he'd mentored a boy for about 18 months, a young man in a suit walked up to Conley and thanked him. It didn't register with him at first, but then Conley recognized him. His charity had made a difference. What seemed impossible became possible.

Others, Conley said, have gone on to set up foundations and created charities inspired by his efforts.

It's a satisfying side note to a career that's in its 13th NBA season.

Soon, the Jazz point guard expects to get back to basketball.

“From what I’ve heard from the COVID standpoint, things have gotten better. It eases our reservations of not wanting to leave our homes,” Conley said. “You do worry about a portion of it. Your family. Your kids. Those closest to you. You don’t want to see anything happen to someone contracting something like COVID.

“I’m prepared. I’ve been working as if we’re coming back.”

Check out the Indy Star article here


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