It’s been a very long time since a male basketball player from Manitoba has been able to crack any Canadian national team.
But that changed with Westgate Mennonite Collegiate’s Ben Miller, who was named to Canada’s national junior team last week for the 2014 U18 FIBA Americas.
It’s a drought that lasted 12 long years. Erfan Nasajpour was the last hoopster from Manitoba to wear the red and white in 2002, also for the national junior team.
Miller, 18, is one of only three players from Western Canada on the roster that looks to contend in Colorado Springs, Colo., from June 20-24. Each team in this tournament will be looking to qualify for the FIBA World Junior Basketball Championships in 2015.
The 6-3 point guard said so far the experience has been unlike anything he’s ever been a part of.
"Since we’ve been here we’ve scrimmaged against the United states and also with Uruguay," Miller said after a day of practice and preparation for today’s first tournament game against Brazil. "It was great, we hung with them. We played three quarters and reset the score after every quarter."
Miller said he won’t be starting on the floor but he is in the rotation and will be dressed, so he will get plenty of playing time to show the world what he’s made of.
Miller has an impressive basketball resumé. He’s been a member of Team Manitoba for the last three years and has led the Westgate Wings to two provincial AAA championships, including one this past March.
He’s been voted AAA player of year the last two years and recently added the Carl Ridd Award to his trophy case. The award recognizes performance on the court and in the classroom, as well as community involvement.
Earlier this year Miller committed to play basketball at Acadia University in Wolfville, N.S., over offers from other top Canadian university programs such as the almost unbeatable Carleton Ravens.
Miller said he went with Acadia because they put significantly more effort into his recruitment. Acadia’s head coach flew to Winnipeg to watch some of his games and make sure the Winnipeg star was heading east.
"I wanted a new experience, try some things out and I felt Acadia was the place to do that," he said. "I felt comfortable with the players there, with the town, with the school and with the coaching."
But that’s two months away and the FIBA Americas are right now. He said his biggest challenge at the moment will be trying to overcome the difference in speed and physicality he is accustomed to.
"It will be great for me to grow as a player," Miller said of the opportunity.
"I’m playing at a much higher level than what I’m used to. It will help me mature a lot. I mean, representing your country provides a lot more pressure than anything else."