Wendell Carter sets a platform for Orlando's future to fly

Wendell Carter is using his foundation to set an example to help students fly in the future, following a dream Carter had to put to the side to play basketball.

Wendell Carter has always been a good teammate and a good citizen. His latest endeavor is helping Orlando's future fly.
Wendell Carter has always been a good teammate and a good citizen. His latest endeavor is helping Orlando's future fly. / Jeremy Reper-USA TODAY Sports

On the court, Wendell Carter is always trying to make sure he is living above the rim. That is one thing centers have to be able to do and Carter is constantly working on getting his miles above.

In Friday's game against the New York Knicks, he got criticized for his poor job controlling the glass against the big Knicks team. Sunday night against the Indiana Pacers, he seemingly went out of his way to make sure he was securing rebounds, flying in for a season-high 15 rebounds, including six offensive rebounds.

Both games ended up in disappointing defeats. But everyone knows the Magic will be making their triumphant return to the Playoffs this season. There is a lot to look forward to.

But that was not the first thing Carter of thinks of when he was flying.

Before a growth spurt jumped him up to 6-foot-5 in high school on his way to 6-foot-10, Carter had a much rarer dream he was pursuing. He was seeking a different kind of flight.

When he was younger, Carter wanted to be a pilot.

As he tells it, he played some kind of aviation video game growing up and was interested in flying. Going on his first flight when he 12 or 13 was amazing to him and he turned to his mother and said he wanted to be a pilot.

His mother, Lydia Carter, remembers that interest having a different origin.

She said the interest came well before he hit his major growth sport. She worked as a construction manager for the airport in Atlanta and she would bring Wendell to work with her. He would sit in the cockpit at nine years old and that is when one of the pilots told him he was going to be too tall to be a pilot.

Carter said Wendell was a bit heartbroken at that prospect.

But he is going to try to pay things forward in an industry where seeing a pilot of color is about as much of a long shot as a player making the NBA.

Things have come full circle.

As part of his A Platform2 Foundation (A Platform Squared), Carter announced he is partnering with the Brock Foundation to establish a teaching curriculum to put students at Oak Ridge and Evans High Schools on the path to becoming pilots.

Carter may not be the one flying, but he and his foundation are going to be helping give a lift to two historically Black schools in Central Florida.

"I feel like it is the perfect opportunity for me to help kids get where the NBA is," Carter said at his foundation's event on Monday. "It's somewhat similar in terms of the number. For me to at least give the platform and the opportunity to become a pilot at some point feels and feels amazing."

The Carter Family Foundation has adopted Evans High School and helped boost its STEM education programs.

Adding lessons and experience in aviation through the Brock Foundation and with assistance from Microsoft is exposing students to the industry and preparing them for the qualification tests and giving them the skills to be future pilots.

It is something they might not otherwise consider without the spotlight Carter is helping shine on it. That is something Carter has tried to do with his foundation with its focus on improving STEM education.

He is a good person to be an exemplar and shine a light on an industry that does not have great representation. Just like he looked up to other basketball players at camps and charity events when he was growing up, he hopes his presence helping build classroom opportunities will inspire the next generation.

"I think Wendell is in the perfect position to have an impact among youth," said Omar Brock, the founder of the Brock Foundation which aims to increase representation among pilots and will help organize the curriculum at the two Orlando high schools. "Particularly speaking in the African-American community, there's this idea of I want to grow up and play sports. We identify with him more in that he's a pro athlete stepping out and wanting to introduce them to other lanes besides playing basketball. It's a testament to his character."

That is something Carter has spent a lot of his philanthropic efforts looking at.

His leadership and steadiness have been key for the Magic on the court too. Orlando has always relied on him as the backstop on defense. So much of his game -- whether it is from screening to rebounding -- are about helping others.

That is the approach Carter has taken to his foundation work too. He is always working to lift others up. This is another opportunity to do so.

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"I think that's what makes me being with my platform special," Wendell Carter said at his foundation's event Monday. "It's one thing to have a platform and go out there and worry about yourself 24/7. You make that leap as a person when you can bring someone else with you. Whether it's one person or 100, if I am able to touch the lives in the community that come from kind of a similar background to myself means the world to me."