NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Following a successful first year of professional basketball in Turkey, former Tennessee State standout Patrick Miller faced a difficult decision: continue his pro career overseas, or return to the United States for a chance to play in the NBA Development League.
After consulting with his agent and weighing offers from teams in Turkey, Italy and Germany, the 23 year old guard, who starred for the Tigers from 2010-14, entered the NBA D-League draft.
“I’m still young. I figured I’ll give it a shot,” Miller said. “I know I’ve seen Rob (Covington) do it before, and I’m close with Rob, so I felt like why not do it now and see where it goes.”
Selected by the Oklahoma City Blue in the second round on Oct. 31, 2015, Miller was traded on draft night to the Texas Legends, the affiliate of the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks based in Frisco, Texas. For Miller, the chance to work in close connection with the NBA franchise has been an invaluable experience.
“We practice (in Dallas) a lot,” Miller commented. “The president and General Manager are at every home game. They stay in communication with us. They send down workout plans for us, stuff to do in the weight room. We run the same plays as they do, so the two teams are very connected.”
Six games into his NBA Development League career, the Chicago, Ill. native is averaging 8.8 points, 2.2 assists and 2.0 rebounds per game for the Legends, coached by former NBA All-Star Nick Van Exel. Miller has had to transition from the European game to the NBA D-League style of play.
“It’s something I’ve had to adjust to coming from overseas after my first year," Miller said. "With Nick (Van Exel) being a former player in the NBA, it has made it easier. Then being around other players who have been called up to the NBA and players who have been playing for a long time, you learn a lot. Everyone is just hungry. It’s all about getting comfortable and getting better every day.”
Before making the jump back to the states, Miller inked his first professional deal in the summer of 2014 with Besiktas in Turkey. A broken hand before the team’s first game cost Miller his spot in the rotation. While rehabbing, he returned to Nashville to receive treatment at TSU. He then trekked back to Turkey and went on to play for Yesilgiresun, helping lead the team to a Championship in a turnaround season.
Miller earned his shot at the NBA D-League thanks to his play overseas and with TSU. With the Tigers, he earned First Team All-Ohio Valley Conference for the 2012-13 and 2013-14 seasons. Miller graduated as TSU’s sixth all-time leading scorer with 1,900 career points. He also holds TSU single-season modern era records for assists (195), minutes (1,186) and attempted free throws (268). Miller led the OVC and finished fifth in the NCAA with 23.7 points per game as a senior in 2013-14.
"I had an awesome experience at TSU," said Miller. "Coming in as a freshman, winning OVC Freshman of the Year. Then sophomore year being part of a 20-win team and making the OVC Championship Game, beating Murray State during the year when they were undefeated... I had a great experience. It's home for me now, and I just felt like we started to build a program on the rise like it used to be."
Miller remains in contact with the Tennessee State coaching staff and some of the players on the team. He has had the opportunity to watch the 2015-16 TSU team play through webstreams and has high hopes for the Tigers this season and beyond.
“I feel like the program is going in the right direction,” Miller said. “I played for Coach (Dana) Ford my freshman year, so I already know what kind of coach he is and how he wants you to play. He’s aggressive, and he just wants his players to play. I feel like the team is on the right track, and I feel like the team has a chance to be as good as we were my sophomore year (2011-12) when we went to the OVC Championship Game versus Murray State.”