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March 5, 2011Surrounded in a basketball atmosphere since adolescence, senior guard Jamelle McMillan's mentality to the game is strikingly similar to that of a head coach.
You can say it's in his blood.
A general on the court, Arizona State relied on McMillan's leadership qualities throughout his career. He'd give advice to his teammates on the sidelines, even speaking to the team after head coach Herb Sendek during timeouts.
"There comes an insight and breadth of knowledge with all things he's been able to watch and hear through the ears," Sendek said. "He's been around it for a long time."
After helping to Sun Devils to 20-win seasons in each of his first three years -- for the first time since 1961-63 -- McMillan saw a team collapse before his career finish line this season.
Dealing with a young roster unfamiliar with Sendek's system, McMillan had a tough time dealing with the growing pains.
"The most successful people have struggled at some point or another, some more than others," McMillan said. "This is the most I've struggled basketball-wise in my entire life as far as a team setting."
The Sun Devils battled with injuries and sickness throughout the season, including an aggravated groin McMillan has dealt with all year.
Sidelining him for three consecutive games, it didn't stop McMillan from having one of his best individual seasons at ASU.
Not known for scoring abilities, the 19th ranked point guard in 2007 according to Rivals reached the double-digit plateau in four consecutive games for the first time. His 2.58 assist-to-turnover ratio was the best in the Pac-10.
Despite the increase statistically, playing basketball is not something he's setting his sights on in the future.
"I always told myself if I was at this point and my career allowed me to be successful at the NBA level then go for it," McMillan said. "But at some point you have to accept reality and at this point, my body is not held up in order to have a career that would be beneficial to me in the long run."
McMillan will consider all opportunities after he finishes the season with a scheduled graduation in May. He's open to anything from an NBA scout, to a television show, even radio.
There's also a possibility he may end up with father, Nate McMillan.
Currently the head coach with the Portland Trail Blazers, Nate's contract is up at the end of the year. It's very likely Nate will be with an organization next season, Jamelle's weighing the possibility of following his dad's footsteps.
His fellow teammate, and friend, seems to agree.
"It depends on what side of the bed he wakes up on," senior Ty Abbott said. "Some days he's got all the insight. Other days, he doesn't want to be bothered. I guess that's typical of a coach, so yeah, he's right there."
Wherever he winds up in the basketball world, with his rare combination of polish, maturity and intelligence, McMillan is likely to excel.