Australian NBA star Patty Mills may live far away on the other side of the world, but making a difference in his homeland always remains front of mind.
The Boomers captain took his nation to within a minute of their first ever Olympic medal last month in Rio, confirming his status as the star of Australian Basketball.
But despite the growing plaudits for his on-court efforts, Mills still hopes to make his biggest impact off the court.
He hopes to be an inspiration for Australian youth, both Indigenous and Non-Indigenous, as he implores the next generation to dream big and chase their lofty ambitions.
Mills’ sporting dreams started on Thursday Island, before taking him to Indigenous Basketball club ‘The Shadows’ in the ACT. From there it was a two year stint at St Marys College in America, before the big time of the NBA came calling.
It’s been a journey, but Mills told NITV’s League Nation Live he feels it’s a path many young Australian’s can follow, if they just believe.
“I think it’s about making the most of the smallest opportunities. A lot of Indigenous kids and any Australian kids in general don’t get a lot of opportunity. You might only get a small window or chance to be able to make the most of it.
“You need to be able to dream big and aspire to big things, to achieve those goals. The higher the goal is, the more chance you are of achieving things”, said Mills.
Mills has strangely become Indigenous Australia’s unofficial ambassador to America, with his story enlightening the United States to our nation’s history.
Whilst most that comes across the U.S based star assume Mills is African-American, the San Antonio Spurs guard is happy to educate and change perceptions across the world.
“It’s funny because when I meet people for the first time everyone would assume I’m a Black American or African American. So it’s a good topic starter for me to let them know where I’m from and everything about my background.
“Being in San Antonio everyone is intrigued with my story I guess and the Indigenous Australian story and culture and background,” explains Mills.
“That’s one thing about being over there and growing up and learning, I really use Basketball as a platform to represent my Indigenous background and take a lot of pride in doing so”.
The heartland of Indigenous Australia played a pivotal part in influencing Australia’s recent Olympic campaign. Mills led his squad to Uluru to help foster the team’s connection to their land and infuse the pride of the nation amongst the squad.
That visit saw the Boomers achieve their best Olympic performance since Sydney 2000, with Australia falling just short of a medal.
“It’s a different feeling when you’re playing for the San Antonio Spurs. You’re playing in a big team, it’s a business, with a lot of money involved. But when you put on the green and gold there’s a different meaning that comes into play that doesn’t when you’re playing in the NBA.
“I was fortunate to take the boys to Uluru, to the centre of the country to be able to take some time to find their individual meaning to why they represent Australia and things like that, when you step onto the court there’s a lot of pride and passion that goes into it. You leave everything out on the court.
The title of Australian captain is not the only title Mills holds close to his heart and it’s not just teammates he aims to inspire these days.
The 28-year-old is an ambassador for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children’s Day, helping spread the message of the Secretariat of National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Childcare.
Although Mills missed out on the recent festivities, due to his Olympic commitments in Brazil, he’s thrilled the day was a resounding success.
“It’s a great organization to let the kid’s voice be heard,” says Mills.
“I heard that it was a great day, and involving about 250 communities throughout the whole country, I’m very proud to be involved with that”.
Mills will return to the United States in the next few weeks to prepare for the start of the new NBA season in October. The San Antonio Spurs guard is expected to take a more prominent role on court in the new campaign, with long time playmaker Tim Duncan retiring.
But with his star rising, Mills will keep his feet on the ground, with hopes of seeing many young Australians following in his footsteps, as they chase their dreams.