Who is Malcolm Miller and where did he come from?

Malcolm Miller made his first NBA start on March 4 against the Hornets.
Malcolm Miller made his first NBA start on March 4 against the Hornets.

When the Raptors’ starting small forward OG Anunoby was ruled out of the lineup due to an injury for the second straight game on March 4, an unexpected and unknown Raptor stepped up in his starting place: Malcolm Miller.

Miller made his first NBA start with the Raptors against the Charlotte Hornets at the Air Canada Centre – and as much as fans wanted to embrace and cheer for him, many had no idea who he was.

But even without being as well-known to Toronto fans as Norman Powell, who started in Anunoby’s place on March 2, Miller played a solid game.

He didn’t make a huge impact, but he earned 14 minutes in the small forward position. If Anunoby’s ankle doesn’t heal soon, Toronto Raps fans might be seeing a lot more of the six-foot-seven, 210 pound sophomore.

But who exactly is Malcolm Miller and where did he come from?

First off, he’s former NBA-star Reggie Miller’s younger cousin.

Malcolm Miller spent four years playing for the Patriot League’s Holy Cross Crusaders in Worcester, Massachusetts.
Malcolm Miller spent four years playing for the Patriot League’s Holy Cross Crusaders in Worcester, Massachusetts.

But he has written his own story in his path to the NBA.

Miller is a 24-year-old (his 25th birthday is tomorrow!) Maryland native who played his four-year college basketball career with the Holy Cross Crusaders in the NCAA’s Patriot League.

In his senior year he averaged 14.5 points, 4.9 rebounds, 1.6 blocks, 1.3 steals and 1.2 assists per game. He finished the season ranked second in the Patriot League in blocked shots, and he ranked third in all-time career blocked shots for the Crusaders with 143.

The shot-blocker was named to the All-Patriot League second team in his fourth year, but he went undrafted at the 2015 NBA draft. That didn’t end his NBA dreams, though.

After the draft he joined the Boston Celtics summer league team where he played over 12 minutes per game averaging 4 points and 1.3 rebounds per game. That performance landed him his first NBA contract; he signed with the Celtics in September 2015.

He played in a single preseason game before being waived and later acquired by Boston’s affiliate D-league team, the Maine Red Claws.

In 47 games with the Red Claws, he averaged almost 13 points, five rebounds and two assists per game.

When the summer of 2016 rolled around, Miller signed his first European contract to play with Alba Berlin of the German Bundesliga and EuroCup.

But two months after signing, Miller suffered a fractured wrist and was forced to the sidelines for three months.

The following summer Miller returned to the (newly named) G-league, and in a summer league practice with the Raptors he sprained his ankle so badly that he needed surgery, and was expected to miss 12 weeks.

Despite his injury, the Raptors used one of their two 2-way roster spots on Miller in July 2017 — that made him the first 2-way contract recipient in franchise history.

But Miller wouldn’t make his Raptors 905 debut until December 2017.

He suited up for 32 games with the 905 averaging 12.5 points, 5.2 rebounds and 1.6 assists per game, while shooting 38 percent from beyond the arc.

Not quite the same stats as former 905 players who have made an immediate impact on the Raps this year as the best bench mob in the league; Pascal Siakam averaged 18.2 points per game with the G-league team last year, Fred VanVleet 16.9 points to go along with 7.6 assists, and Jakob Poeltl averaged 16 points and 13 rebounds.

But still, when Anunoby went down in Orlando, Dwane Casey looked way down the bench and called Miller’s number.

He’d gotten some garbage minutes prior to Sunday, playing in six games before he made his first career start (although he got his first bucket in the March 2 game against the Washington Wizards).

And although he didn’t make a big dent in the Raptors box score on March 4 (ending with just one rebound), he did exactly what the team needed him to do: he moved the ball well, hustled on both ends of the floor, set strong screens, and played solid defence. Simple. Easy.

His audition for the small forward job with the Raptors went well, and fans can definitely expect to see more Miller time in the future. Maybe not in a starting position, and maybe not with a significant role — but he’ll be back on the ACC floor.

And when that happens, fans will know who he is.

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