Ready to Take the Next Step

Ready to Take the Next Step

by Christy Cabrera Chirinos

CORAL GABLES, Fla. – Jordan Miller had tried to prepare for the moment as best he could.

He’d trained. He’d practiced. And he’d spoken to a series of former Hurricanes basketball players who’d already been through the pre-draft process, with the likes of Bruce Brown, Kameron McGusty and Charlie Moore, all offering him advice and guidance.

Still, as Miller made his way through the Utah Jazz’s practice facility and pulled on the team’s official gear ahead of his first NBA workout, the former Hurricanes guard couldn’t help but feel a bit awed by where he was and what he was about to do.

“It’s one of those things you don’t really know what to expect until you get there,” said Miller, who averaged 15.3 points, 6.2 rebounds and 2.7 assists during a historic season that culminated with Miami making its first appearance in the Men’s Final Four. “I talked to a lot of former players and people that have been on this journey and through the process, to kind of get a feel of what to expect, but again, until you’re there, you don’t really know what to expect.

“Putting on that Utah Jazz jersey for the first time and seeing that NBA logo – this was before the combine, so it really was my most raw experience – was crazy. Seeing the team locker room and the facility…seeing the players…just being immersed in all of that, you actually feel like a part of the team, even if it’s for a very limited time…It’s a dream come true.”

If Miller has his way, more moments like those will be on the horizon soon enough.

Since the Hurricanes wrapped up their memorable NCAA Tournament run in April, Miller and former Miami teammate Isaiah Wong – the reigning ACC Player of the Year – have been doing their best to navigate the job interview process of a lifetime ahead of next week’s NBA Draft.

They’ve traveled across the country for workouts and meetings with numerous NBA teams. They put together solid performances at the NBA Scouting Combine. And they’ve relied on each other more than once for support during one of the most grueling chapters of their respective basketball careers.

“It was great sharing that with Jordan, just having another player out there that’s on my team and that’s going through the same process with me,” said Wong of the time the two former Miami teammates spent at last month’s combine in Chicago. “I feel real comfortable because Jordan’s out here doing the same stuff I’m doing and on the same day, we both showed out and showed off for Miami. That made it even better.

“It’s just been good having him around for the whole process. I saw him a couple of days ago when I went back to Miami and he was there, too. We just talked it up a bit…It’s great having somebody there that’s sharing this moment too.”

While Miller, a second-team All-ACC honoree, is navigating the pre-draft process for the first time, Wong – who averaged a team-high 16.2 points, 4.3 rebounds and a team-high 3.2 assists per game this season – has some experience with it.

Twice, he’s already met with teams, gone through workouts and gotten feedback about what he’s needed to do to continue to grow his game.

After each of those first two go-rounds with the pre-draft process, Wong opted to return to Miami, where he continued to improve, culminating with his fourth-year junior campaign for the Hurricanes.

This season, not only did he earn conference player of the year recognition, but he was deemed a National Association of Basketball Coaches third-team All-American.

And like Miller, he was an essential part of Miami’s Final Four run.

All of that, Wong said, has prepared him to put his best foot forward as he works to make his NBA dreams a reality.

“I think it really helped me throughout the process. My sophomore and junior years, I went through it and this year, I already knew what was going to happen,” Wong said. “I was going to travel, I was going to talk to scouts, and I was going to work out. I feel like coming into these workouts, I have no pressure. I’m just going through the workouts, playing my game and having fun with it at the same time…I’m just trying to have the best days possible right now and enjoy it, but at the end of the day, still focus on the main goal and the main goal is trying to have a team trust me and draft me.”

If Miller and Wong receive those highly coveted calls during Thursday’s draft, they’ll add to what has already been an incredible stretch for Miami’s men’s basketball program.

In the months since the returning from Houston and the Final Four, Miller, Wong and the rest of the Hurricanes have watched as former Miami players have taken center stage during the NBA playoffs.

Brown, who starred at Miami between 2016-2018, is now an NBA champion following a memorable playoff stretch with the Denver Nuggets that brought him back to South Florida during an NBA Finals matchup against the Miami Heat.

And earlier in the postseason, Brown faced off against one of his Miami teammates – Lonnie Walker IV of the Los Angeles Lakers – during the Western Conference finals.

Their respective journeys have inspired Wong and Miller, both of whom say they can envision a future where, they too, might face off at the highest level.

And both say it’s Miami that prepared them for that possibility.

“Bruce and Lonnie, they’re playing in the NBA right now and me and Jordan, we can be those players, too, in their situation,” Wong said. “They play well because [Hurricanes head coach Jim Larrañaga] taught them well. They’ve been through the process and they’re showing out for Miami. I feel like me and Jordan, we’re the next ones coming up.”

Said Miller, “Miami has been a place where I’ve really gotten to polish my game. Coach L’s a tremendous teacher, a tremendous coach. He also has a son that coaches in the NBA, so he has a lot of insight. A lot of our practices are based off of NBA practices, what they do and stuff like that. With Coach L obviously being around for so long and knowing so many people in the NBA, having a son who’s immersed in the NBA, it kind of sets us up to be successful when we get there.”