The white collegiate basketball player carries a stigma with them that mostly comes across as comical. Undersized, underwhelming, somewhat adorable compared to the thoroughbreds, the white walk-on basketball player comes into the game with usually a basic role.
If it’s a point guard: just pass. If it’s a center: just be in the paint and be big. If whitey can shoot: go to the corner and make the three point shot. In between all of the that “action”, they’re on their seat at the bench like a circus animal in its cage waiting to be released out onto the court and perform.
There’s a twitter account called White Bball Pains that parodied the characteristic’s of the white walk-on and Baylor point guard Austin Mills is the poster boy for that account. Yes, he reads their tweets and sometimes agrees with them.
At 6-1 and 175lbs, Mills looks no different than anyone else in the Baylor student section who plays basketball in the recreation center wishing they were in his position.
Mills, a junior, is from Beverly Hills, Calif. and the son of Jade Mills, the top real estate agent for Coldwell Banker. Despite averaging 25 points per game as a high school senior and leading the Beverly Hills High School Normans to the state semifinals, he couldn’t have picked a better place in the country to feed the stereotype.
“There’s always been a perception,” Mills said. “It was hard even in high school to get recruited out of Beverly Hills because it’s the stigma that comes with it. Nobody would come to our games. I always had it used against me but I like to prove people wrong.”
Mills was recruited by Pepperdine which for what it’s worth, may as well be the Beverly Hills of college basketball. He averaged 9.2 minutes per game as a reserve point guard and even though he picked Pepperdine because it was close to his family, he decided to transfer to a program that would give him the college basketball experience he was yearning for.
Lucky for him, he was sitting right on the bed of basketball talent in the West. Mills said transferring to a new team was all about the right opportunity. Where he would play next unseeingly depended on who he was playing with in Los Angeles.
“Los Angeles is kind of like the Mecca of basketball in the summer,” Mills said. “A lot of college and NBA players come in the summer. I actually played with Perry Jones and I knew he played at Baylor he raved about the program. We emailed the coaches and contact the coaches and it seemed like a great fit.”
Now with Baylor playing in the Big 12, Mills is finally getting the college basketball experience that he wanted. Part of that experience includes being away from his home and family, which was a tough adjustment for him.
“We had to teach him how to ride a horse,” said one of Mills’ assistant coaches jokingly.
Right now his role is to spell starting point guard Lester Medford and set up his star players, essentially passing the ball to teammates who seem like they’re 10 times better than he is. He’s out there for an average of 6:30 minutes per game, which is a lot more than the average stereotypical walk-on.
But that’s okay, because he’s subtlety disproving the stereotype of the white walk-on with his play as a point guard that enables him to hold his own on the court. He is seen in games passing the ball with savvy and putting his teammates in the right position to look like stars. He plays nearly less than half the minutes of his starting teammates yet is almost always among his team leaders in assist. Against Memphis, his three assists in six minutes topped anyone on the Tigers that game.
Sure his appearance feeds the stereotype of the white basketball player who doesn’t come in with exotic heritage. Yet for Mills, he’s subtlety showing some game that makes him a valuable asset to the Baylor Bears.