Shake Milton took the NBA world by storm when he dropped 39 points on the Clippers in L.A. back on March 1.
It left a lot of basketball fans asking, “Who the heck is Shake Milton?”
One man who knew the guard very well was former Sixers head coach Larry Brown. Brown had recruited Milton and coached him for a short time at SMU.
“One of the greatest kids I’ve ever been around in my life,” Brown said of Milton as a guest on the Sixers Talk podcast. “And he loves it [in Philadelphia] — respects the coaches, loves the players.”
Brown said he “got lucky” in stealing away the Oklahoma native from the University of Oklahoma and Indiana. Brown wound up retiring in the middle of the 2015-16 season and only coached Milton for 21 games as a freshman.
“He was tough on you,” Milton told NBC Sports Philadelphia's Noah Levick back in December of 2018, “but at the end of the day, you knew that he cared about you and you knew that he would stand by you, go to war with you. He was somebody that I know I could always come to no matter what. He was more than a coach to me.”
Milton went on to have an outstanding career for the Mustangs, averaging 18 points a game during his junior season. That year, his final one on the college level, was cut short. He played in just 22 games because of a broken right hand.
Unfortunately, injuries became a theme for Milton going into his NBA career.
People forget, early in his last year, his junior year, everybody projected him as a first-round pick. Then he got hurt, he didn’t play the rest of the year. He went to the combine and one of the first games that he played in he got hurt and didn’t tell anybody and didn’t play as well in the combine as most people expected.
“I got calls from everybody in the NBA asking me about Shake and his character and what I thought about him. Obviously I love the kid and was very, very high on him. The remarks to me were, ‘Where does he play?’ The NBA in so many ways tells you what a kid can’t do instead of telling you what a kid can do. That bugs me a little bit.
“But Philly drafted him at No. 54. He slipped considerably because of his showing in the combine, and then when [the Sixers] examined him they found out he was hurt. They were really upset. ... A lot of people were upset with [his agent] and thought they pulled something over Philly’s eyes, but Shake couldn’t work out for anybody during that time and a lot of times after the combine when you have an individual workout, that’s how people judge you.
Nobody can be unhappy with that pick now.
Milton’s rookie year was largely spent in the G League after the team signed him to a two-way deal — in part because of the back injury he suffered before the draft. Milton shined for the Blue Coats in Delaware and played well during his NBA stints. A broken bone in his right shooting hand came at an inopportune time during his rookie season.
Even when it appeared Milton could become a regular part of Brett Brown’s rotation this season, he suffered a bone bruise and a mild left knee sprain. The emergence of Furkan Korkmaz left Milton as the odd man out when he returned to the lineup.
Though injuries may have mired the start of his NBA career, Ben Simmons’ back injury gave Milton his latest opportunity — and he ran with it. Over his last nine games before the season was suspended, he averaged 19.4 points and shot a preposterous 60.5 percent from three.
Brown believes the time the Sixers spent developing Milton was instrumental in making sure he was ready when injury struck.
“You won’t find a better kid than him, and somebody that really trusts the process,” Brown said. “And Philly did a remarkable job with him. Playing in the G League in Delaware, Shake told me was huge. …
“The greatest thing is they had patience with him. They had some injuries and you never know when the opportunity is going to be there for you to show you can play.”
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