Playing basketball in Chicago is tough, and if you can prove your credentials you have a chance to continue playing at the collegiate level. Although the leagues are ultra-competitive, the bond built on the court is one that lasts for life.
“There’s a lot of Chicago talent on a lot of Division I teams that I talk to all the time,” Miller said of his Windy City roots. “Even if we don’t play them and they come to our city I’ll go get tickets to watch their game. I keep up with all Chicago players, it’s like we’re a family.”
When Tennessee State’s men’s basketball season tips off its season on Friday, Miller won’t have to buy a ticket to see Chicago talent, instead he’ll share the court with an old friend.
Hawai’i’s Brandon Spearman paired up with Miller to lead the Hales Franciscan to a 31-19 record during their freshman and sophomore seasons. The duo created quite the combo as they guided the Spartans to two consecutive play-off appearances as underclassman. A youth movement was brewing at Hales with Miller and Spearman leading the charge.
“I loved playing with Pat. He’s a great point guard, he always makes the right plays,” the Hawai’i star said of his former floor general.
After that season the two players separated when Spearman left for the prestigious Simeon Career Academy. The Chicago high school is known for its rich basketball tradition; with Ben Wilson, Derrick Rose and current Duke freshman Jabari Parker among the notable alumni.
“Actually when I left (Hales Franciscan) I missed playing with him at point guard, I wish he would of came over and been our point guard at Simeon,” said Spearman.
Miller and Spearman are just two players from Chicago to find their way on a Division I basketball roster. In the OVC alone, there are nine Chicago natives spread out throughout rosters around the league.
“When you come from Chicago you have the weight on your shoulder, you have to play a certain way and perform a certain way,” said Spearman. “I believe players from Chicago when they leave there they bring it on the floor and they give it all they got. One thing about us is we’re fearless, we give it our all.”
In their college careers the fearless trait has been a big part of why the two former teammates are finding success at a Division I level. Between the two they’ve made 159 appearances with 115 starts in their NCAA college careers.
Chicago native started the first game of his career Nov. 12, 2010 against SEC foe Mississippi State. His line: 13 points, four rebounds and two assists in 38 minutes of play, ever since then the point guard role for the Tigers has been filled by Miller.
Spearman’s first season with the Rainbow Warriors last year averaged 9.6 ppg and shot 40% from the field for a team that finished 17-15 and 10-8 in the Big West. The 6-3 guard’s best performance came against his hometown team, Illinois, pouring in 20 points and pulling down nine rebounds in a 78-77 overtime loss.
Even though the two haven’t played on the same team in over six years and are separated by over 4,000 miles the bond remains strong between the two Chicagoans.
“We’re both busy being college athletes but social networks always keep us together,” Spearman said.
So when the Tennessee State schedule was released in October and Miller saw the name Hawai’i pop up, he took to social media to check in with his longtime friend.
“I posted a picture of our schedule on Instagram he posted, ‘Good Luck first game,’ because he knew we played them,” said Miller. “So it was pretty fun just joking around”
The reunion takes place this Friday when the Tigers take a trip down to Hawai’i for the Outrigger Hotels and Resorts Rainbow Classic. Tennessee State opens play on Friday against the Rainbow Warrirors (11:30 p.m. CT).
“I can’t wait to see him play,” Spearman said of Friday’s meeting. “I haven’t seen him play in so long, I want to see how he’s progressed and it’s going to be fun I can’t wait to get on the floor with him. It’s going to be competitive and it’s going to be fun.”