After playing last season in Germany, Malcolm Miller ’15 overcame an ankle injury, signed with the Toronto Raptors and has become the first Holy Cross basketball player in 37 years to make his NBA debut.
Last fall, Miller was signed by Toronto to a two-way contract, which effectively allows teams to have 17-man rosters with two players in hybrid situations. Players on two-way contracts must have three or fewer years of experience and can float between the developmental G League and the NBA for up to 45 days. Toronto’s G League team, Raptors 905, is based in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada.
Miller began the season with Raptors 905, averaging 26.8 minutes and 12.3 points per contest in his first 27 games. He was traveling with the team in late December when he got the news he was getting called up to the pros.
“The next thing I know, they called,” the 6-foot-7 forward says of the Toronto front office. “I hopped on a plane and met the Raptors.”
Miller made his NBA debut Dec. 20 in Charlotte, North Carolina, and played five minutes with two assists, becoming the first Holy Cross product to appear in an NBA contest since Garrett “Garry” Witts ’81 of the Washington Bullets during the 1981-82 season.
“It is definitely an honor,” says Miller, who turned 25 on March 6, from his suburban Toronto apartment. “Not many people from the Patriot League or other mid-major programs are able to make it to that level. It was nice to get into the game. I had played against some of those guys in the G League before.”
Three days later, he played three minutes at home against the Philadelphia 76ers. Miller, who scored 1,013 points in his career at Holy Cross, then scored the first six points of his career as he made two shots from 3-point range on Jan. 11 against the Cleveland Cavaliers. Miller later made his first NBA career start against the Charlotte Hornets on March 4.
“The dream is always you want to be an NBA player. I was happy to get that done,” Miller says.
Raptors head coach Dwane Casey has been impressed by Miller, who played four years for the Crusaders.
“He is an NBA shooter,” Casey said before a game in Washington, D.C., against the Wizards. “He played in the Cleveland game and came in and knocked in a couple of buckets. I am very impressed with his shooting. He needs to get a lot stronger and take the hits and bumps of the NBA, but shooting will not be one of his problems.”
Miller was a standout at Gaithersburg High in Maryland, a suburb of the nation’s capital, but did not get a lot of attention from major Division I college programs. Milan Brown, former Crusaders head coach, went to Howard University in Washington, D.C., and learned about Miller from a friend, James Lee, who was officiating AAU games in the region.
“I had just gotten to Holy Cross, and James called me. He said [Miller] fits your academic profile,” says Brown, now an assistant coach at the College of Charleston in South Carolina. “I saw him play at a tourney in West Virginia.”
By the time Miller was a sophomore at Holy Cross, Brown says he knew Miller had the potential to go pro.
“The sky is the limit if you are willing to work,” Brown told him. “His junior year was very good. He had some tremendous highlight film plays.”
Miller ended his Holy Cross career with 532 rebounds, 164 assists and 143 blocked shots, the latter of which ranks third in all-time program history. He graduated in 2015 with a degree in philosophy and played for the Boston Celtics Summer League team. He later joined the Maine Red Claws, the Celtics’ G League squad, before going to Germany for the 2016-17 season. There he played with Alba Berlin, one of the top clubs in Germany, and also took part in EuroCup games.
“Going to Berlin was a great experience for me,” he says. “It helped me grow up as a person and a ballplayer. I broke my wrist and missed a few games. Germany was a pretty physical league. Many of the European leagues aren’t as athletic as the NBA.”
Brown, his former coach, says he sent Miller a text once he got called up to the NBA.
“I told you so,” Brown wrote, remembering their conversation when Miller was a sophomore on Mount St. James.
According to Brown, Miller replied, “You are right coach, you are right.”
Written by David Driver for the Spring 2018 issue of Holy Cross Magazine.
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