Paul Millsap is a man of mystery. He’s not loud. He doesn’t showboat. He doesn’t stir up controversy in the media. The former 47 pick of the 2006 NBA Draft has always flown under the radar. He’s the epitome of a pro’s pro. He’s a guy that everyone wants as their teammate because of his lunchpail, blue collar approach. Millsap has earned everything he’s received throughout his eight-year NBA career, starting with your respect.
Buzz gleaned from the Louisiana Tech product’s first NBA All-Star selection last February has catapulted him into Team USA training camp in Las Vegas where a roster that is lacking in size has left a gaping opportunity for Millsap to make the cut.
“I was excited to get the call,” said Millsap. “It wasn’t for sure if I was going to fly out or if I was (even) going to come but I sat back and waited for the call and here I am.”
As a stretch four, most would argue that Millsap’s versatility would be a big asset for Team USA if he were to be selected. And with his nearly unmatched “will to win,” Millsap seems to be a perfect fit for Mike Krzyzewski’s squad, too.
“I feel like some of the things that I do well I can bring to the team,” the Atlanta Hawks forward said. “I see an opportunity. (I’ve) just got to take advantage of it.”
While Paul’s competitive nature has brought him to the campus of UNLV for Team USA’s Training Camp, his three brothers – always, always up for a game of two-on-two – have been working behind the basketball curtain.
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According to the NCAA, just 1.2 percent of college basketball players have gone on to play professionally, but the Millsaps aren’t most people.
The oldest, John Millsap, played for the University of Texas-San Antonio and most recently for Frayles de Guasave of the Latin Basketball League, averaging just under 20 points per game last season. John has made pit stops in the NBA D-League and all over South America throughout his nine-year pro career. He’s even been a mainstay on NBA Summer League rosters, playing for the Atlanta Hawks in Vegas last summer.
“John definitely has had a pretty good run doing the overseas thing,” Paul said. “He’s a good shooter. He’s had his experiences in the D-League and he’s had his experiences in Summer Leagues. His main part of his game is rebounding, defending and he’s definitely a knock-down shooter. Not a lot of people give him credit for his shooting abilities but he’s definitely an elite shooter.”
The second youngest brother is Elijah Millsap, who has spent time in the D-League, EuroLeague and the Philippines. Elijah is also a summer journeyman – he just finished up his fourth consecutive Summer League stint with the Philadelphia 76ers. As a consistent sixth man for his squad in Vegas, Millsap put together one of the more impressive outings of Summer League in Las Vegas, tying the single-game record for steals with seven steals in one contest to go along with 19 points in his team’s victory over the Los Angeles Lakers.
“I’m a little older, so this year [was] probably my most focused summer league of all,” said Elijah. “When you’re young, you kind of just enjoy being in Vegas and enjoy just playing in the Summer League. But when you’re older, you kind of take things more seriously and you forget about being in Vegas. It’s just another gym and it’s time to work.”
While the maturity in Elijah’s game is something that he attributes to his successful stint with the Sixers in Vegas, Paul simply believes that his younger brother has begun sticking to his strengths as a player.
“It’s been a tough ride for Elijah but he’s starting to figure it out,” said Paul. “When he was younger he wasn’t really sticking to his strengths but now as he gets older, he’s starting to understand to use his strengths a little bit more which is his ability to attack the basket and get fouled. He’s been real good at that. He can handle the ball really well – especially for a three. And his on-ball defense, to me, is definitely NBA caliber [based on] the way that he can lock down and defend.”
Elijah was often asked to guard the other team’s best player throughout Summer League, and it’s his defensive-minded approach that he thinks gives him the best chance of joining Paul in the league one day.
“[Defense] is how I’m trying to get myself into the NBA and show teams how active I can be,” Elijah said. “I think that’s one of my strongest talents, that’s what I wanted to showcase and I think I did.”
The youngest of the Millsap quartet, Abe Millsap recently finished up his final season at Tennessee State. He made his Summer League debut with the Atlanta Hawks in July and was helped by a solid understanding of how it should be approached due to the experiences of his older brothers.
“Paul is a perfectionist,” Abe explained. “He pretty much does every thing the right way. Just watching him and how he handles certain situations and utilizes his time helped me to prepare [for Summer League].”
With the four of them pushing each other throughout their adolescence and now into their professional careers, the Millsaps’ winning mentality is universal, and has allowed all four brothers to continuously elevate their games.
“We’re very competitive as a family,” Abe said. “Even our mother is competitive. When we’re playing monopoly, we’re getting into it. So just from a standpoint of the 1-on-1s and the 2-on-2s, it doesn’t matter who’s the youngest or who’s the smallest. Everyone wants to win and thinks that they can, win so just that mentality helps us a lot.”
Whether it be during Paul’s playoff run with Atlanta or John’s games overseas, their ability to provide one another with honest criticism is something that each brother has used to better himself.
“They come to me a lot but I usually come to them,” Paul said. “After games and in the playoff series we come after each other and ask each other how did we play and what can we do to get better. I think that’s the key thing for us because we’re going to tell each other the truth and that’s what’s been good for us. We always tell each other the truth.”
Nine years ago, a hardworking, undersized power forward named Paul Millsap defied the odds, receiving an opportunity to play in the association and refusing to look back in the interim. It’s only a matter of time before one of his brothers follow suit, too. For what’s the Millsaps’ winning way? Beating the odds.
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