For Sean Miller and the Arizona Wildcats, June is usually a good time to disappear.
While many current players return home for the month, before the entire team typically comes back in July, it’s normally a chance for Miller to work a regular schedule, appear at some youth camps and rest up for the busy July recruiting evaluation period.
That won’t happen this year, but Miller’s OK with that. He’s spending half the month in Colorado Springs, Colorado, as an assistant coach with USA Basketball’s U18 training camp and an ensuing world championship qualifying tournament.
Practices begin tonight and will continue through June 19. Then, the FIBA Americas U18 Championships will begin June 20, also at Colorado Springs, and continue through June 24.
“It’s somewhat awkward for me,” Miller said last week. “I like to be around our own team and Tucson, the place where you work, but when this came across as an opportunity a number of things made a lot of sense.”
Such as these five possible benefits:
- Gaining recruiting cred (even if unintended):
- Miller says the USA Basketball experience is not a “recruiting forum,” an event too important to consider the recruiting implications even as some of his commits (Justin Simon, Tyler Dorsey) and targets (Allonzo Trier, Stephen Zimmerman, Isaiah Briscoe) from the class of 2015 will be a part of the training camp.
“To me it takes away from USA Basketball if you go in there as a coach with the intent of recruiting,” Miller said. “That’s not what this is about. What it’s about is building a team, coaching that team and winning a gold medal.
“This is a qualifying tournament for next year’s world championships in Greece, so it’s important that we accomplish that goal that USA Basketball has set out to do.”
Even so, it can’t hurt that the prospects see Miller as a respected-enough coach to be a part of the prestigious organization, on a staff with head coach Billy Donovan of Florida. And the players will get a chance to see how Miller operates on the floor, instead of just hearing about it.
- First-hand evaluation:
- While the top prospects can watch Miller, he can see them in a different light, too. Even though Miller says he’s focused strictly on the USA Basketball context this month, he’ll have a chance to gain a better feel for what the nation’s top prospects are like on the floor, instead of just watching them or talking to them.
This could help Miller in the future when the Wildcats face one of these players on another team, or help him gain additional knowledge about the habits of those he is recruiting.
“You can only do so much as a coach evaluating and getting to know them,” says Josh Gershon, a recruiting analyst for Scout.com. “Coaching them, even if for a few days, there’s nothing better than that. He has players there he gets to talk to and get to know in a way he might not otherwise.”
Specifically, the extra knowledge could help with 2015 guard evaluations. Miller already has commitments from Simon and Dorsey but remains interested in Briscoe and just last week also offered a scholarship to Trier, a guard from Seattle and Oklahoma City who was a late invitee to the U18 camp.
- Bonding with Stanley:
- Miller will also get a chance to work with the one player he is certain of having at Arizona – incoming freshman Stanley Johnson – who is also a near-certainty of making the team.
Already, Johnson is a veteran of USA Basketball. He helped USA’s U17 and U16 teams to gold medals, and he played for USA in the Hoop Summit last April. Having signed a letter-of-intent for Arizona, Miller is allowed to publicly discuss him unlike with the UA commits.
If Johnson does make the U18 team, he’ll be around for the entire experience with Miller, who is expected to install Johnson in the Wildcats’ 2014-15 starting lineup.
“It would be a nice two-and-a-half week time for us together,” Miller said.
- Coaching development:
- After five years at Arizona, and 10 as a head coach, Miller also gets a chance to grow from being in a new environment, around new people and playing a game with slightly different international rules and style.
“Sometimes when you just keep doing the same things, at the same place, and it’s the status quo from one year to the next, you can not continue to develop in your own right,” Miller said.
“Being around Billy Donovan and Ed Cooley (Providence coach, another USA assistant) and being a part of the international game and the way the game is played on that level — and having an opportunity to coach some of our young players in this country who are going to go on to do great things — I think it allows you as a coach to improve.”
- USA pride:
- Miller has joked about being the only player on the 1991 World University Games team who didn’t make it in the NBA, but the truth is he helped that team to a gold medal — and still takes pride in it.
Same goes as a coach. Miller was invited to be a court coach during the World University Games training camp in 2011 and made the next move this year by joining the U18 staff.
“When you play for a gold medal, when you play for your country,” Miller said, “to be a part of that on that side of it and represent USA Basketball is quite an honor.”