Quick… see if you can name the only NCAA college basketball player to perform in the 2008 Olympics. There’s obviously nobody on Team USA’s Redeem Team, and the rest of the world’s best players tend to move into their own pro leagues before coming stateside for the NBA, but if you said speedy Patty Mills from tiny St. Mary’s College in Moraga, CA, by way of Australia, you’d be correct.
Mills is arguably already the best college player you’ve never heard of, or if you’ve heard of, you’ve never actually seen play. In a quarterfinal game where Team USA obliterated Australia 116-85, the 20-year old Mills established himself as one of the best players on the floor among perennial NBA all-stars. How do we know this? Well, ask Chris Paul:
“He’s good. Man, he’s fast. I read something that says he’s faster than me. They’re probably right. He can move.”
Or Redeem Team head man Coach K:
“I’m glad my Duke team doesn’t play St. Mary’s. He’s a great guard. He’ll be an NBA guard. I’m very, very impressed. He really has great quickness. And I love him defensively. I’ve been a defensive coach my whole life and there aren’t very many people who stay with the guard, like right on him, when he has the ball, and if he’s beaten, he doesn’t retreat, he continues to play the play. He’s got to be an extremely tough-minded kid. But as good as he is offensively, he’s got a chance to be a great defender. I think the kid has got a big-time future, quite frankly.”
For the tournament, the rising Gael sophomore averaged 14/2/2 on 52% shooting, including the eye-opening 20 pt, 2 asst, 3 steal performance against the Americans. This comes on the heels of a mid-major all-american 15/3/4 rookie campaign that was largely ignored outside of the tiny bandboxes of the WCC. St. Mary’s had its chance at a Davidson-like run, leading Miami (FL) at halftime of its opening round game, but quickly disintegrated in the second half under a barrage of threes by Miami’s Jack McClintock.
With four of its top five players returning from a 25-6 team, Patty Mills and St. Mary’s could become the west-coast version of a name everyone will be paying attention to in next March’s brackets. Channelling Stephen Curry and Davidson…