Isaiah Miles graduated from Saint Joseph’s last week … and went right to work trying to achieve his NBA dreams.
Miles came back to Philadelphia on Friday as part of the Sixers' pre-draft workouts at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine (see notebook). He was less than a week removed from sandwiching his commencement in between time at the NBA Draft Combine.
"It feels great," Miles said of graduating. "Getting a degree, at the end of the day, is the most important thing. … I just wanted to do it for my mom. Walking across the stage and seeing the smile on her face was huge.
"I left the combine early to go to graduation. I came back to the combine right after graduation, so I think it will show teams my loyalty and my demeanor when it comes to school."
The Sixers are the third team the Baltimore native has worked out with, joining the Boston Celtics and Brooklyn Nets. Miles has at least six more lined up with trips to Houston, Dallas, Utah, San Antonio, Milwaukee and New York in his future.
On Friday, Miles was teamed for three-on-three work with Columbia's Maodo Lo and Baylor's Taurean Prince, while mostly competing at forward against San Diego State's Winston Shepard. After the scrimmaging, Miles and the other attendees worked on shooting drills, catching and shooting off improvised screens. Miles, for one, thought he shot the ball well at the workout while stretching the floor.
It is that shooting ability that gives Miles a chance to make an NBA roster this summer. He struggled to find minutes in his first two seasons with the Hawks before taking off, turning into a well-rounded forward averaging 18.1 points and 8.1 rebounds by his senior season.
His prowess from deep forced mismatches for opposing defenses, but he also began to make himself a presence in the paint as well. His senior year culminated in a game-winning three in the NCAA Tournament to beat Cincinnati and get St. Joe's out of the first round for the first time in 12 years.
So it has been quite the whirlwind for the 21-year-old. Just ask him if he thought he'd get to this moment on the cusp of becoming a professional basketball player.
"Two years ago, my sophomore year, no, I didn't think I would be here," Miles said. "But to the glory of God and his blessing, he blessed me to give me this opportunity to have an outstanding senior year and be able to try out for these NBA teams. I'm definitely happy to be here to play with the 76ers.
"I've been here four years and I see Philly as my new home besides Balitmore, so it'd be great to play here. I gave so much time and so many years to Philadelphia. I love it here."
As for his fit in Philadelphia, the 6-foot-8 forward says he could contribute to a team with plenty of bigs already. Once again, it is his shooting that sets him apart.
"I feel like they could use an extra shooter," Miles said, "especially a big shooter that can stretch the floor and could be a mismatch problem for a lot of fours and fives."
Vince Rozman, the Sixers' director of basketball operations/scouting innovation, highlighted that Miles improved as he went through college. Coach Brett Brown mentioned Miles as a "good worker." The big man will need to continue to improve if he wants to make an NBA roster, although Brown talked through some of the alternative paths a prospect like Miles can take to the pros.
"Because we have D-League affiliates with the Sevens right down the road, our scope on how we judge people is very expansive," Brown said. "It's not in a vacuum in the NBA, so as we're making assessments, we also feel that maybe they can come up, as I said before, in a different path to ultimately being on the roster, so we're lucky in having that affiliation down the road."
One thing helping Miles along the NBA draft circuit is the presence of his St. Joe's teammate DeAndre Bembry. Bembry, who went through a workout with the Sixers earlier in the week (see story), assisted on Miles’ game-winning three-pointer in the NCAA Tournament after creating a dynamic duo with the senior all season long. Bembry advised his former teammate to "just have fun" with the session.
"It's huge," Miles said of Bembry's going through the same process. "He's my best friend, he's my brother, and it's good seeing someone who battled with you throughout the season have such success after the season's over as well as you.
"So it's kind of a huge process and you like to see your brother do well. I'm glad me and him are able to go through the process. We're getting what we deserve from the season after having a hard-fought season."