NBA championship winner Patty Mills wants to inspire Australia's indigenous basketballers. Photo: Reuters
He is now an NBA championship-winning star with the San Antonio Spurs, but Patty Mills began basketball in Canberra as a four-year-old with the Shadows.
Mills wants to help resurrect the multicultural and Australian indigenous basketball club founded by his parents 25 years ago, "crushed" that children no longer have the same pathway he enjoyed.
Mills' uncle Danny Morseu – Australia's first indigenous Olympic basketball representative and an NBL Hall of Famer – believes his nephew's rise in the NBA can also inspire programs to discover more indigenous basketball talent.
Bruce Minerds, who is trying to revive Canberra's Shadows indigenous basketball club, holds Isaiah Cornforth, 5, of Rivett. Photo: Melissa Adams
Benny and Yvonne Mills founded the Shadows, which encouraged players from diverse cultural backgrounds to play together, but it ceased competing almost two years ago when they retired from their roles.
Benny Mills has given his blessing to Canberra businessman Bruce Minerds to try to revive the club, with plans for up to seven teams to begin playing in September.
"Everyone talks about me being a small boy from Canberra but it all started with Shadows," Mills said this week.
Left to right: Isaiah Cornforth, 5, of Rivett; Avari Petersen, 7, of Wright; Kiarma Ranalli, 5, of Kambah; Kurran Ramalli, 7, of Kambah; Dante Devow, 11, of Kambah; Bruce Minerds; Sienna Devow, 5, of Kambah; Tea Devow, 7, of Kambah; and Tyra Petersen, 10, of Wright. Photo: Melissa Adams
"It was because of family; mum and dad started the club and got me involved. To think that I'm an NBA champion and a two-time Olympian, I want to look back and tell everyone I came from the Shadows Basketball Club.
"I want Shadows to still be running. I've thought a lot about that over the past year, getting it going again. It crushes me to think that where it all started doesn't exist any more.
"Bringing Shadows back, getting people involved whether they're indigenous or not ... giving kids the opportunities I had as a kid, that's what I want for them."
Mills is the first indigenous Australian to win an NBA title. Benny Mills is a Torres Strait Islander and Yvonne was part of the Stolen Generation.
Patty Mills wrapped a Torres Strait Island flag around his shoulders when the Spurs received the trophy and proudly spoke of his family heritage to the American media.
Minerds has been working with Mills' family and Basketball ACT to restart Shadows.
"The interest just keeps going,'' Minerds said. ''We're starting up a youth program, it's for everyone. Yvonne and Benny have said it must be around reconciliation and that's what it's about.
"We want to use it for personal development; we'll reach out to some disadvantaged kids but it's also to see if the next Patty Mills is out there, whatever his background is."
Morseu was courtside in the US for the NBA finals and is adamant that talent in indigenous communities has been an untapped goldmine for too long.
The 56-year-old has spoken to officials in the second-tier South-East Australian Basketball League to introduce indigenous men's and women's teams into the competition – possibly based in Canberra.
"I've written a proposal and I'm putting a strategy together and trying to get something off the ground,'' Morseu said.
"We'll be looking at remote communities where basketball is big, but a lot of those kids don't have the opportunities to excel.
"You look at kids coming through the Australian basketball program, there's not a lot of indigenous kids coming through. I think there's a lot of untapped talent out there.''
Morseu's plans for the program include employment and education opportunities for athletes.
"My vision is we'd set up an incorporated body in Canberra, look at attracting private and government sponsors to make the program a success, and use that as a model as how to progress that nationally,'' he said.
Mills nearly slipped through the development cracks as he was only handed an Australian Institute of Sport scholarship after now Collingwood AFL skipper Scott Pendlebury quit.
"I think he turned it into a positive more than a negative; Patrick didn't get things handed to him on a silver platter," Morseu said.
Born on Thursday Island, Morseu is convinced there is plenty of indigenous talent like Mills waiting to be discovered.
"I want to create chances for these kids, because they're out there,'' he said.
"They're looking to get out of their communities as well, and one way is through sport.
"Indigenous people are dying at a young age, there's a lot of challenges around keeping kids out of youth detention centres, and drinking.
"If we don't do it now it will never happen.''
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