When you’re taking a foreign tour to Australia, whom better to hear advice from than a native Australian?
Ten-year NBA veteran Patty Mills has taken a liking to offseasons in Hawaii — a convenient stopping point between his country/continent and the U.S. Mainland — and his friendship and Saint Mary’s ties with UH coach Eran Ganot have meant the San Antonio Spurs guard has been a semi-regular presence around the Stan Sheriff Center during the last few summers.
Mills got in a workout in the Sheriff on Monday, just before the Rainbow Warriors got in their ninth of 10 allowed full practices before embarking on their Australia trip on Wednesday.
Before UH got underway, they took a seat around Mills for some perspective.
At Ganot’s urging, Mills recounted his somewhat unlikely journey to the NBA out of Moraga, Calif., being drafted in the second round and his uncertain first couple of years with the Portland Trail Blazers, before Gregg Popovich called him up and gave him a chance with the Spurs. A lasting chance, as it turns out; entering his eighth year in Texas, he’s second on the team in seniority to Manu Ginobili (pending a retirement decision by the 41-year-old Argentinian), and one of just a few players remaining from the 2014 NBA championship team.
Among other things, Mills told the UH players to bundle up when they visit chilly Canberra, the capital and Mills’ hometown. At all four stops (Brisbane, Melbourne, Canberra, Sydney) he said to expect no quarter from the Australian players, who have a reputation for playing hard and will be using these games to improve, just as UH is.
Mills invited players to approach him for advice before or after the Australia trip; he will still be in Hawaii for at least a week or two upon their return.
Fan response to the trip was considerable. More than 30 fans/boosters are going along with the ‘Bows on the full tour. For comparison, about a dozen went on the “Warriors to Asia” tour in 2011.
A couple more shots of Mills from Monday: