No player in college basketball had as productive and noteworthy a summer as St. Marys point guard Patrick Mills
. Invited back for a second stint with the Australian national team, Mills did not disappoint Coach Brian Goorjian for the confidence he put in the 20-year old, leading the team to the quarterfinals (where they lost to the gold-bound US) and emerging as their top scorer in the process after averaging 14 points in 24 minutes per game.
Mills was particularly impressive in the loss to Team USA, racking up 20 points, 3 steals and 2 assists, after already showing he can hold his own in a friendly game earlier in the month with a 13 point performance in 21 minutes of action.
Needless to say, Mills had an outstanding summer, and likely became a much better player in the process thanks to the extremely high level of competition he went up against. Its very likely that folks in the NBA paid close attention as well.
Now that hes back at St. Marys, almost certainly for his final season of college basketball from what were hearing, Mills has a tall task at hand in order to live up to the very high expectations he created for himself. He had a strong freshman campaign last year, but showed a couple of flaws in his game that we must keep a close eye on.
The most attractive part of Mills profile at the moment is clearly the terrific quickness he brings to the table. He is an absolute jet in the open floor, capable of beating most anyone in a footrace from end to end, but also possesses a terrific first step which he uses quite well to turn the corner at get by his matchup in the half-court as well. Severely undersized, and not very strong at the moment to compensate, Mills athleticism will be a key factor in projecting how his game translates to the next level.
Despite the quickness he shows, Mills relied very heavily on his jump-shot in his first season of college basketball. 50% of his field goal attempts came from beyond the arcof which he converted just 32%--which made him a not very efficient player in the final tally. Mills has nice shooting mechanics, good touch, and the ability to make jumpers from well beyond the college line, but his shot-selection left something to be desired at times last season.
Mills got to the free throw line at a fairly average rate last season considering the athletic advantage he enjoyed in a competition like the WCC. He lacks the size, strength and explosiveness to go up and finish amongst the trees at times, and doesnt do a great job currently creating contact and finishing through it. His mid-range game and floater could also stand to improve. These are two things he will need to have down pat to compete more effectively in a league like the NBA at his diminutive size. He also looks less comfortable utilizing his left hand, usually preferring to pull-up off the dribble when forced in this direction rather than take the ball all the way to the rack.
Improving his ball-handling skills and doing a better job of utilizing change of speeds in his game should open things up considerably for him. He did not always do a great job of reading defenses last season, and its likely that as his knowledge of the game expands, he will better learn how to take advantage of his tremendous initial burst. One clear positive that came out of this summers experience for Mills was the more aggressive mentality he showed taking the ball strong to the rim and not settling for jumpers.
As a point guard, Mills shows some excellent qualities to build off of, but also still has quite a bit of room to continue to grow as a floor general. He is much more of a shoot-first point guard at the moment than a natural floor general, as indicated by his poor 1.22/1 assist to turnover ratio last season. He has solid court vision and is clearly not a selfish player, as well as excellent leadership skills and an unbelievable amount of confidence, but his mentality right now appears to be that of a scorer. Improving his knowledge of the game, gaining experience and doing a better job of seeing the floor will be a real test in terms of evaluating how good of a player he can become down the road.
Defensively, Mills lacks size and strength, but makes up for those deficiencies somewhat with the quickness and competitiveness he brings to the table. He is very intense and does a very good job of getting in the passing lanes, where his excellent wingspan aids him greatly. Still, his upside on this end is limited somewhat by his lack of size, which will allow bigger point guards to post him up, shoot over the top of him, and see the floor with greater ease.
This is a big season for Mills, and there isnt a huge margin for error considering the conference he plays in. Making a deep run in the NCAA tournament is a distinct possibility considering the quality of players (especially big men) on St. Marys roster, and it will be important for him to take show himself as much as possible on big stages in order to erase the doubts scouts might have about his lack of size.