Such is the lasting impact that Australian Boomer Patty Mills imparted on Saint Mary's College during his two-years, the Gael's are set to honour him by retiring his famous number 13 jersey. Mills' will be present to receive his honour as part of a special half-time presentation on February 21, fittingly a contest against West Coast Conference (WCC) rivals Gonzaga.
The retirement of Mills' jersey joins that of fellow Australian Matthew Dellavedova, whose number 4 was retired in February last year after a stellar 4-year career. Mills quickly become a fan favourite after arriving in Moraga, California and helped propel the Gael's into national relevance and gain exposure worldwide.
“Clearly, Patty Mills is one of the elite student-athletes this program has ever seen,” stated Saint Mary's College head coach Randy Bennett. “Patty is one of the college’s greatest ambassadors and provides visibility for Saint Mary’s every time he steps on the court, whether it is for the San Antonio Spurs or in international competition for Australia."
“He is the most high-profile recruit the program has ever signed, had two great seasons at Saint Mary’s and made a significant impact on our program. Through his play on the court, the success we had as a program and his international experience at the Olympic Games, he provided a great deal of visibility to Saint Mary’s during his college career."
“As great of a player Patty is, he is even a more special person. To this day, he completely embodies the ideals of Saint Mary’s College and truly appreciates the opportunities and experiences Saint Mary's provides him.”
As the sixth Australian to pull on a Gael's uniform, Mills' on court exuberance and explosive scoring made a huge impact for the Gaels. He exploded for 37 points against then number 11 ranked Oregon in just his fourth game to create a new WCC freshman single game scoring record. He started all 32 games in his first year (the first Gael freshman to do so since Daniel Kickert) and broke the school's single season scoring record on his way to being named First Team All-WCC and WCC Newcomer of the Year.
Patty Mills in action for the Gael's vs Fresno State - Credit SMCGaels.com/Tod Fierner
As a sophomore he was even better before breaking his hand against Gonzaga that resulted in him missing the final 9 games of the season. Despite sustaining an injury, he would go on the post career-best numbers of 18.4 points, 3.9 assists and 2.2 steals per game and the accolade flowed. Mills was named First Team All-WCC and a finalist for the Bob Cousy award, while he was also named to the Top 30 Mid-Season Watch list for the Naismith Trophy. After an outstanding two years with the Gaels, Mills would go on to the 2009 NBA Draft, and was taken by the Portland Trailblazers with selection number 55.
"It is such a privilege that Saint Mary’s is retiring my number,” quoted Mills. “This is an unbelievable honor and one of the most prestigious recognitions I've ever received. From the day I got there, I knew Saint Mary’s would always be my home away from home.
“My memories of playing at McKeon Pavilion are awesome. To this day, it is still one of my favorite places to play. But, it is the memories of friends and family that I've made on and off the court that I will cherish for life. I'm really excited to return to Moraga for the presentation. It will be a special night for me. More importantly, I hope we can pull off a great win over the Zags!”
As much as Mills excelled on court for the Gaels, it was also his brilliant performances for Australia at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games that helped thrust Saint Mary's onto the world stage. He was outstanding, delivering some amazing performances against the USA and Argentina. As the only collegiate player competing in that Olympics and the youngest Olympic basketball player ever from Australia, he averaged a team-best 14.2 points coming off the bench.
After two years with the Trailblazers, Mills landed with the Spurs and was a key player in helping San Antonio secure the 2014 NBA Championship. He posted 10.2 points per game that season and helped draw even more attention to the Saint Mary's College basketball program.
With the retirement of Mills' number 13, he becomes just the third Gael men's basketball representative to have his number retired, joining compatriot Dellavedova and Tom Meschery (31). The recognition to be bestowed upon Mills speaks volumes of his impact on the small school from Moraga, California. Saint Mary's has become a second home to many Australian players over the years and with the current crop of players is firmly set to continue.
While fellow Australian Daniel Kickert may have laid the foundations, Mills elevated the program to national prominence and will now be forever enshrined as a Gael great.