By Mark F. Gray, Special to the AFRO, [email protected]
Heading into the 2019 NBA Finals, there was a certainty that once again a player from the D.M.V. would be crowned a champion. The best odds were on either Golden State’s Kevin Durant who would have pulled D.M.V.’s Quinn Cook along for the ride.
However, as the Larry O’Brien Trophy made its way north of the border for the first time, the two Prince George’s County stars watched as the least familiar of the local trio got to wear the championship swag.
Malcolm Miller, who was an All Montgomery County player before a stellar career at Holy Cross, is the only NBA champion from the area who will wear an NBA championship ring as a reserve for the Toronto Raptors this year.
That Miller was on the bench for an NBA championship team speaks volumes about just how hard he had to work to get to the league. He was initially undrafted, but played for the Boston Celtics summer league team after not getting the call on draft night in 2018 following a somewhat decorated tenure at Holy Cross.
In four years at Holy Cross, Miller scored 1,013 points while grabbing 532 rebounds with 164 assists and blocking 143 blocked shots which ranked third all time in school history. As a senior, Miller averaged 14.5 points, 4.9 rebounds, 1.6 blocked shots, 1.3 steals and 1.2 assists per game for the Crusaders, while connecting on 37.2 percent of his three-point field goal attempts. He finished the season ranked second in the Patriot League in blocked shots.
Miller is the personification of a student athlete. He graduated from Gaithersburg High School in 2011 where he was an All County Basketball player and Honor Society member who took a different route to the Association. He was a straight A student from elementary school through high school. He had offers to join Good Counsel and play in the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference – arguably the best high school conference in American – but chose to stay at Gaithersburg banking on his confidence that he could ultimately play in the NBA.
“He told us around the seventh grade that he was going not to worry because he was going to make it to the NBA,” his father Robert tells the AFRO.
Unlike Durant and Cook, who played at major college programs and were highly coveted recruits following private and prep school paths, he chose to play at Holy Cross of the Patriot League. He is the first Gaithersburg High School basketball player ever to receive a full basketball scholarship to a Division One school. That conference boasts some of the hardest entry requirements of any in Division I.
“He was looking for an academic challenge when he went to college,” his father Robert Miller told the AFRO.
After graduating from Holy Cross in 2015, Miller began an international basketball odyssey. He played for the Boston Celtics summer league team, but couldn’t earn a roster spot. He then played in the NBA’s developmental league, now known as the (G-League), with the Maine Red Claws, a Celtics affiliate, although they never promoted him. He played in the top German league before he became the Raptors first two-way player.
Miller made his first NBA start against the Charlotte Hornets in March of 2018, but was assigned to the Raptors 905 G-League affiliate to open this season. Finally in February he was called up to NBA roster for the balance of the season and became a world champion.