"Milos and Me"
Written by Assistant Sports Information Director Matt Ensor
It was a suffocating, humid August day at the Atlanta airport three years ago. An anxious Shaw family was awaiting their visitor, which was someone they had never met. The Shaws had agreed to be the host family for a European boy. What walked off the plane was a six-foot-ten-inch Serbian by the name of Milos Kleut.
"Right when he got off the airplane, you could tell he was a nice, genuine guy. It didn't take long for us to be cool together," said Georgia Southwestern forward Matt Shaw. The Shaws, with Kleut in tow, left the airport and went directly to what would prove to be the fabric of their kinship; basketball.
Shaw and Kleut went straight from the airport to North Cobb Christian High School's outdoor basketball practice. Kluet, fresh off a nine hour flight from Belgrade, Serbia to Atlanta, was still trying to find his legs after cramming onto a plane hardly fit for someone nearly seven feet tall. Unaccustomed to the Georgia summer heat and humidity and jetlagged from Serbia, the practice didn't treat Milos well. Kleut would survive the practice, but only after vomiting.
And so Milos Kleut would begin his new life in the United States. The newest member of the Shaw family would struggle with a language barrier, but he never second guessed himself. "I came to America for the opportunity to play college basketball, and I didn't think twice about it," Kleut re-emphasized.
There was also a food barrier of sorts for the Belgrade native. He was slow to embrace American cuisine, which meant his daily food in-take consisted of about five apples-a-day for the first few weeks.
As Kleut would begin to adapt to his new life with the Shaw family, the North Cobb Christian basketball team began an impressive era. The program won two GISA state championships, and both Shaw and Kleut would begin being recruited for basketball.
Kleut spent an extra year in high school to allow his English language skills to better develop, which meant Shaw would be the first to leave for college. The Marietta native would go north to Tennessee to play at Lipscomb University. His new brother would join the Bison a year later.
For Shaw, a lack of playing time for Lipscomb would push him to continue his career elsewhere. The Hurricanes came into play for the six-foot-seven-inch forward. "I knew that I wanted to leave Lipscomb. As soon as I made that decision, I knew I wanted to go somewhere where I could play," Shaw said. "I had talked to Coach Leeder, and he seemed like a nice guy. He's intense, but he really seems like he cares about his players, which really drew me to Georgia Southwestern."
His decision to leave his Serbian brother behind in Tennessee, for the first time in his life in America, didn't sit well with Kleut.
"When I heard Matt was leaving (Lipscomb) I was sad because he is like my brother. He's leaving, and Sarah (Shaw) is leaving, I was kind of freaking out about having to be there by myself." He would stick around at Lipscomb for another year before joining his brother and sister in Americus and becoming a member of the Hurricane basketball program.
Since leaving his homeland over three years ago, Kleut has been back to Serbia during the past two summers. He video chats with his family twice a week on Skype, and the two families continue to build an inseparable bond. Even while living in Americus, Milos still has his own room in the Shaw household in Marietta. Matt Shaw's parents spent a week this past summer with the Kleut family in Belgrade, which was a long-lost family reunion of sorts. While his last name is still Kleut, Milos is definitely a member of the Shaw family.
"Milos has lived with us since he moved to America, and he has really become part of the family. He's not just a guy on my basketball team or just a really good friend of mine. He's family," Matt notes.
The journey of brotherhood has gone from Marietta, Georgia to Nasheville, Tennessee to Americus, Georgia. It's here the story will continue for two more seasons as both Milos and Matt are juniors on the Hurricane men's basketball team. Yet their journey won't end in southwest Georgia.
Matt, Milos and the rest of the Shaw family are planning another trip to Kleut's native Serbia this upcoming summer. Then after graduating from GSW, it will be onto the next chapter.
"We are going to go to Europe together to travel and continue our careers," Kleut said. "Go see the world and use basketball as a tool to do so."
It's an ideal continuation of their relationship because what else would two basketball brothers do?