Welcome to Day 256 of the ‘Who Wants to Be a Blogger’ Contest! Today, we break down entries from Kyle Morrison, Chris Thomas, and “Deke” (is someone too important to use their real name?) and I’ll send one of them home packing. This round is all about Cameron Mills and I can’t wait to pretend to be interested in what these three guys have to say about him. Let’s get right to it!
By: Kyle Morrison
I idolized Jamal Mashburn growing up. I would spend hours pretending to be him. I would take imaginary passes from Tony Delk and dunk on the five foot rim my dad nailed to the oak tree behind our house. I dreamed of one day wearing number 24 and playing in Rupp Arena. As great as this fantasy was, I must admit, I was not delusional. I knew that I could never be Jamal Mashburn. He was 6’8” and well, amazing at basketball. He is arguably the most important player in UK history. I would have been crazy to believe I could be as good as Jamal Mashburn. I guess I would just have to settle for being the next Cameron Mills instead.
What Mills represented to every slow, corn feed white boy in rural Kentucky was the dream of playing for the Wildcats. I would watch Mills sit contently on the bench behind a stable of future NBA players. I would cheer when up by 20, Mills would go in and nail two threes from the top of the key. To me, Mills was a scrub, a bench player, an afterthought. An afterthought however, that had the opportunity to play for the greatest school in college basketball history. I would be fine with being a scrub. I would be fine with mop up duty. I would be fine with being Cameron Mills. Unfortunately, perception truly isn’t reality.
Some men are born in the wrong century; Mills was born to the wrong father. I’m not sure how much influence former Kentucky player Terry Mills had when it came to his son’s choice of matriculation, but I’m guessing it was substantial. Cameron was a legacy. I guess it was his destiny to play for the Wildcats, but it shouldn’t have been. Cameron Mills was a great player. He just had the misfortune of being surrounded by amazing players.
Mills is regarded as an inspiration to every blue collar (slow), hard nosed (can’t jump) player trying to make the varsity squad. This is garbage. Mills was a great player in high school. He turned down a scholarship to Georgia. He was a career 47% three-point shooter. That ranks him ahead of Travis Ford, Tony Delk, Rex Chapman, and well, every other player in UK history. Granted, he didn’t take as many shots due to his lack of playing time, but he played on three of the greatest teams in Kentucky history. It is hard to compete for playing time when you are behind McDonald’s All Americans. Had he played at Dayton, or Western Kentucky, he would have been a star. He should not be remembered as this aw-shucks, I’m just happy to be here kind of player. He should be remembered as a solid player who was a winner. Mills himself would probably never admit to any of these things. I think that is why he was so endearing. He seems like a totally selfless guy. His ministries, his message, his reputation, are all things to be admired. He embraced his role as the underdog and will forever be known as the player who despite his “weaknesses”, contributed more than any other former walk-on to three legendary teams.
As an adult I now realize how silly it was to think I could be Cameron Mills. I couldn’t even be Dusty Mills, and he was terrible. Cameron will forever be the greatest “underdog” in UK history. He will always be an inspiration to every little sap who dreams of playing for the Wildcats. But that’s just fine. I never wanted to be Kyle the accountant, or Kyle the insurance adjuster. I wanted to be Kyle, the Kentucky Wildcat. Oh well, I can always pretend to be Cameron Mills in my driveway.
My Buddy Cameron
My life was drenched in awesomeness the summer of 1988. Those were the days of Big Daddy Kane telling us “Pimpin’ Ain’t Easy”, Mad Dog was the Cristal of underage drinking, and a Bel Biv Devoe silk button-up was fashion necessity. I even got to miss the first week of school playing baseball. Seventh grade hotties were digging my swagger and my game exceeded my experience level. Little did I know how much more awesome my life was about to get.
During those glorious Beaumont Junior High days of “my mom take us, your mom pick us up”, us ballers gathered in the gym after school, shooting hoops and waiting for rides. We all sucked, but the games were white upper/middle-class suburban playground warfare. If your shoes didn’t have “Nike Air” on the back, your ass got kicked and your lunch money was stolen. One day, as fortune would have it, I met Cameron Mills. To be honest, he was a combination of Chunk from “The Goonies” and Jimmy Chitwood. Husky-sized jeans were made for him. I was no Adonis despite my bravado, but Cameron looked like 20 pounds of chewed-up bubble gum. Quiet and unassuming, he took the court and all eyes were on this interloper from Somerset. What happened next? He hit three, after three, after three…it was long ago and I’m 99% sure Cameron didn’t miss. His jump shot was text book. It was more pure than that first chick I slowed danced with that school year (an enforcer of the personal space rule). His feet were cemented like a Mob victim and his defense was Mike Major-like in its ineptitude, but his jump shot was other-worldly. Immediately, he had more white-boy juice than Snow and Third Bass.
Time passed and rumors about Cameron’s lineage began matriculating. His father, Terry, played for some dude named Adolph Frederick Rupp. Rumors of his younger brother Collier’s basketball prowess were reaching urban legend-like proportions. No one was sure he even existed. Basketball tryouts came. I didn’t make it past the first cut (like Zoolander, I couldn’t go left), but by this time, I’m proud to say we had become good friends. In retrospect, our friendship never made much sense. He was the strongest Christian I had ever seen. I spent my time listing “Two Live Crew” as my favorite band on my “Student of the Month” biography. I wanted to rent “Truth or Dare” on VHS because I heard Madonna got naked. He disagreed and picked something G-rated that sucked (in my defense, a horny 14 year old just wants to see boobies). Cameron was the religious Yin to my morally rebellious Yang. Through that year and the years after, in my sorted life of Motley Crew-like excess, I’ve never seen a human being more committed to Christ and basketball (in that order) than Cameron Mills. It’s something I’ve always respected him for.
For a guy I always believed had the worst undiagnosed case of ADD in medical history, Cameron had laser-like focus on his life and his priorities. While guys our age were working on closet maneuvers for “Seven Minutes in Heaven” and talking for hours on rotary phones with girls we had no chance at, Cameron’s mantra seemed simple: church, family, then basketball. His work ethic was unlike anything I had seen. Cameron was undoubtedly different, but not president of the computer club different. Nothing was going to force him off the Christian path he had chosen. During a time of life when peer pressure was highest and puberty was a zit-filled sexually frustrating hell, Cameron had a quiet confidence that extended far beyond the basketball court. He was proud of his beliefs and never seemed to care about fitting in.
Paul Laurence Dunbar High School came next. Cameron the Chubby Bunny was gone and Cameron the All-State basketball player emerged. He was overshadowed by future Huggy-Bear guard Darnell Burton, but like an aroused Rick Pitino aiming at his leg, his marksmanship did not go unnoticed. He took Dunbar to two straight championship games, falling short to Anthony Epps with Marion County and a Louisville Fairdale team that’s probably been featured on “Cops in Louisville”. When he told me he was walking on at UK instead of attending Georgia on scholarship, my thoughts were “moron” (followed by “he’s high” and “share”). Cameron was ecstatic. UK was in his blood. That was what he always wanted. His hard work paid off. It was impossible for me not to support him and I did.
It’s too easy to call Cameron Mills the greatest walk-on in UK history. He was vital in the 1997 and 1998 seasons. With DA out, Allen Edwards injured and Jeff Sheppard redshirting in 1997, Mills hit a Yahweh-like 53.2% from behind the arc for the year. In postseason play, Cameron played Moses and turned the nets into burning bushes, hitting a scorching 62.8% from deep and averaging 11.9 points per game, second only to Ron Mercer. UK would have never made the national championship game without him. In 1998, The Apostle Mills saved his best for last, exorcising the Blue Devil demons with his three heard ’round the Commonwealth at the 2:16 mark, giving UK the lead to complete the epic 17 point comeback over the Durham Satanists (also known as K worshippers). He drained two from downtown against Utah, playing a huge role in another championship. He’s still the all-time leader in three point career (47.4%) and season percentage (53.2%). Pitino famously said “Cameron couldn’t guard my desk”. He was correct, but Mills transformed into an offensive weapon and was clutch postseason. Two title rings later, Cameron forever obliterated the walk-on stigma and proved he belonged. He fulfilled every Kentucky boy’s dream except what I believe was his own. He’s living his dream through Cameron Mills Ministries. Not too shabby for the slow fat kid from Somerset.
In Cameron, we trusted.
Cameron Mills: A Fan
By: Chris Thomas
Monday ended poorly for Cameron. Bloody and beaten, he left Indianapolis’ RCA Dome a mere five points short of the ultimate glory: a second NCAA Championship. The Arizona Wildcats, led by Mike Bibby and Miles Simon, hoisted the trophy after an 84-79 overtime victory, ending Rick Pitino and Big Blue’s quest for back-to-back titles. On March 31st, 1997, Kentucky Wildcat fans across the nation world went to bed with one thought in mind. “When will we win No.7?”
Cameron Mills knew the answer. No stranger to championships, Mills’ senior campaign under new head coach, Tubby Smith, allowed fans to admire a seventh national championship banner in Rupp Arena’s rafters. The Kentucky Wildcats further etched their prowess into the college basketball history books by winning the 1998 NCAA Tournament. Cameron more than held his own, hitting clutch shots in two hard fought wins against Duke and Utah.
How did this 6-3 Kentucky kid, who narrowly missed winning two high school state championships at Paul Lawrence Dunbar, find himself on the biggest stage, at the dead center of the hoops world? Nearly every young boy in the Commonwealth, and many elsewhere, dreams of being in that position. We spend countless hours of R.E.M. sleep donning blue and white uniforms, listening to the arena lights hum just loud enough so we can block out the roar of the imaginary crowd. We shoot the ball, often a three, as the fleeting seconds tick down. The swish of the net sounds like angels exhaling in our ear. Suddenly, we wake up.
Mills woke each morning just as many of the other dreamers did. He ate breakfast with that dream still in his head, and did everything he could to make it happen. In fact, Cameron Mills has something in common with most of us who read this site; he was not offered an athletic scholarship to UK coming out of high school. This is why Cameron Mills can be said to have “lived the dream.”
Cameron is not just a former player for the University of Kentucky; he is a big blue devotee who happened to get the ultimate fan experience. Mills embodies many of the traits Kentucky fans identify with and strive to achieve. He is a perseverant hard worker, as is shown in his improvement throughout his career. Despite his career point total being only sixteen going into the 1996-1997 season, he dropped 12 points on 5 of 9 shooting against the ‘other Wildcats.’ In fact, he shot 61% throughout the 1997 NCAA tournament and still holds the season and career three point percentage records at UK (53.2% and 47.4% respectively).
Whether you agree or disagree, his strong Christian faith is something that most UK fans identify with and support. “In June of 1998, he began Cameron Mills Ministries, Inc. Since then Cameron has been speaking to schools, youth groups, and churches. He has held revivals and spoken at Christian music festivals, and college chapels. Representing Compassion International and Christianspeakers.com Cameron is available to speak throughout the year.” (1) Religion is a polarizing subject, just like politics, on this site, but one thing can certainly be admired about his ministry; He has a deep love for helping others and spreading goodwill.
Lastly, he is also a devoted and loyal supporter of his team. Cameron received scholarship offers from many schools, including the University of Georgia. However, Rick Pitino and UK had yet to extend one. Eventually, Pitino offered Mills a walk-on spot. Regarding the decision to play for free or to play for his dream, Cameron has stated, “It wasn’t difficult at all. I spent my whole life preparing to be a Cat.” (2) His love of the university and respect for the tradition is something nearly universally found in all Kentucky fans.
As well, he understands the notion of loyalty fans cherish so much. This can be seen in his relationship with his former coach. When asked about how much they keep in touch, Mills says, “I’ve probably talked with him maybe once or twice in the last six-seven years.” A love/hate sentiment towards Pitino based on nostalgia, respect, and gratitude lies within most fans since he took the job with Louisville. The past year’s events regarding Karen Sypher have chipped away at the respect UK fans maintain for Rick, and Cameron’s words echo this feeling: “If I didn’t have the relationship that I had with him as a former player, I’d boo him.” (3) While he may not boo, he ‘gets’ the mindset of fans. His continuing support of the program shines through in his glowing comments, stating, “I can’t imagine anyone doing a better job than what Calipari has done.” (2)
Cameron Mills has been lucky enough to experience the highest of highs, the minds of many of the Bluegrass faithful, by winning two national championships while wearing the Kentucky Wildcat uniform. When the lights are off in Rupp, and he is back in his old Kentucky home, Cameron does not look much different than you and I. He resides in the commonwealth and cheers on his team. The glory days are well behind him, and he no longer has a seat on the bench. Now, Cameron is right back in the crowd, with all of us, wondering, “When will we win No.8?”
(1.) Deke – Nice work, cheater.
(2.) Chris Thomas – I almost put Chris at the top spot but Deke’s submission had a little more humor and that’s what KSR runs on. Great stuff from both guys.
(3.) Kyle Morrison – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J6qxMP3deU8
Do it again in a few months?