Kevin Pelton, SUPERSONICS.COM
| July 14, 2005
When the 60 picks of the 2005 NBA Draft came and went without his name being called, Kansas point guard Aaron Miles
didn't get down. In the modern NBA, going undrafted is hardly a death sentence for a player. No team better exemplifies that fact than the Seattle SuperSonics, who last season started undrafted Reggie Evans
at forward and gave undrafted rookie Damien Wilkins
heavy minutes off the bench.
Like Evans and Wilkins, Miles knows he can play in the NBA.
"I believe in my heart that I can play at this level and be effective at what I can do, so hopefully I can get my foot in the door and get an opportunity to show people," said Miles after a Sonics summer camp practice earlier this week.
"I believe in my heart that I can play at this level and be effective at what I can do, so hopefully I can get my foot in the door and get an opportunity to show people."
Andy Lyons/Getty Images
That opportunity began last week, when Miles played in the Reebok Vegas Summer League with the New York Knicks. He left the Knicks squad early to join the Sonics in Seattle on Monday for the start of camp and, along with veteran Mateen Cleaves
, will run the Sonics squad from the point starting tomorrow in the Rocky Mountain Revue in Salt Lake City.
"I'm glad they've given me an opportunity," Miles said. "I'm glad for the opportunity to come out here and play with the Sonics."
The team is equally pleased to have Miles. Regarded as one of the top leaders in college basketball while at Kansas, Miles helped the team to the 2003 NCAA title game and finished his career eighth in NCAA history in assists (954), the top mark in Jayhawks and Big 12 history.
"I think we hit the jackpot on that," said Sonics Director of Basketball Operations Dave Pendergraft of having Cleaves and Miles. "We got two guys who know how to play. They take some pressure off the coaches - they know how to run the offense. Those two guys are godsends. They're helping us as much as anything we have going on right now."
"I like the way Mateen and Aaron Miles run it from the point," said Jack Sikma, who is coaching the Sonics summer-league team. "I thought they helped conduct a really solid practice where they understand the bigger picture."
Playing a role is nothing new for Miles. At Kansas, he teamed with future NBA lottery picks Drew Gooden, Kirk Hinrich and Nick Collison of the Sonics, as well as other quality players. Miles never averaged double-figures in a season with the Jayhawks, but made his living distributing the basketball and playing defense.
Miles is also a natural leader, and even as one of the younger players on the Sonics summer-league roster, Miles quickly took charge at practice, directing his teammates and putting them in the right position on the floor as well as encouraging them.
"That's what I do," Miles said. "I try to get you in the right spot, be a coach on the court, run the team, knock down shots when I'm open, but for the most part get people involved and play great defense. There's no hesitancy whatsoever with me being a leader; I think that's just natural."
Cleaves, who played a similar role last season for the Sonics and has throughout his five-year NBA career, likes what he's seen of Miles thus far.
"I like Aaron's game," said Cleaves. "He's very solid, very vocal - right now, he kind of reminds me of myself. He's very vocal. A guy like that, going undrafted, he's just got to find his niche. Continue to work hard, don't get discouraged. Come out here, continue to improve on shooting, shooting, shooting, and just run the team. I think he did that all four years he was at Kansas, and I believe he can do that on this level. He's just going to continue to do that and know that's his role."
The general feeling is that Miles can play in the NBA, but he needs to find the right fit for his skills. That could well be the Sonics, who have had success with similar young point guards like Eric Snow and Earl Watson over the past decade.
"We'll see," Miles said. "I think, obviously Seattle has a lot more spots open right now. From that standpoint, it may be a better fit, but I'm going to see how the summer league goes and hopefully it goes like I want it to go, they grow to love me like I've grown to love them."
If Miles does come to love the Sonics, it will be in no small part thanks to his former Kansas teammate, Collison, who has already done a strong selling job.
"He loves it out here," said Miles. "Me and him went out and ate last night. He loves it. He loves everything from the owners on down to everybody on the team."