As of November, 2009, Patrick "Patty" Mills became the first basketball player with Australian aboriginal origins to play in the National Basketball Association.
Born in Canberra on Aug. 11, 1988, Mills is the son of a Torres Strait Islander (his father) and a Ynunga aborigine (his mother). When he was four, his parents established an indigenous Australian basketball team called the Shadows, thus giving Patty early exposure to the sport. A few years later, he became a ball boy for the Canberra Cannons of the National Basketball League, earning the attention of Cannons' player David Patrick for his precocious dribbling skill.
Mills played several sports in high school, and at 16 was accepted into the Australian Institute of Sport (which also produced American professional players Lauren Jackson and Andrew Bogut). In 2005, he starred in the 2005 Australian Olympic Youth Festival.
His first trip to the United States came in 2006, when he was the starting point guard for a 20-and-under world all-star team that played a U.S. squad at the Nike Hoop Summit in Memphis. The visitors lost, but Mills contributed eight points and six assists and continued to impress college scouts.
Later that year, Mills was named the Australian Male Player of the Year, and it had become obvious that there were no more worlds for him to conquer Down Under. A year later, he accepted a scholarship to St. Mary's College.
College competition proved no problem for Mills. St. Mary's had hired David Patrick as an assistant, and Patty was the fifth Australian recruited by head coach Randy Bennett. He started as a freshman and scored 37 points in his fourth game, an upset of Oregon. St. Mary's started the 2006-07 season out 7-0 and found itself ranked in the Top 25 for the first time in 16 years.
At season's end, Mills was named Newcomer of the Year in the West Coast Conference.
In 2008, Mills turned his attention back home. As a member of the Australian Boomers squad that earned a trip to the Beijing Olympics, he averaged 14.2 points during the competition and scored 20 in a quarterfinal loss to the United States.
"For the people who didn't see the Olympics," Mills said later in an interview with NBA Draft.net, "that was really my coming out party. I was coming off the bench and then ended up as the top scorer for my team in the Olympics. That's what makes me believe I'm ready for the next level. I played against Ricky Rubio and against the Argentinean guards and American guards, and I played well. And I didn't do a lot of losing at St. Mary's. We had a great record and I focused a lot on understanding how to win. So I'm definitely ready."
The Portland Trailer Blazers agreed, picking Mills in the second round in 2009.
"I'm indigenous Australian," Mills said, "so I'm representing all those people. I want to get an opportunity to be in an organization who understands this, that I'm of that culture and can be marketable in that way. My uncle was the first indigenous basketball player to represent my country in the Olympics, and now I'm just the third. I see myself as a role model for kids especially indigenous kids in Australia. I want to show them they can do what I'm doing - any kid can give it a crack and accomplish their dream. My cultural heritage is where I draw my strength, that's high on my priority list. I represent my family, but I also represent my indigenous culture. I'm in a rare, unique position, because our opportunities are limited in Australia and we need role models."