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Former BU player now studies video for Phoenix Suns

Baker+alumnus+Julian+Mills+works+out+Leandro+Barbosa+of+the+Phoenix+Suns.+Mills+is+an+assistant+video+coordinator+for+the+Phoenix+Suns.+%28Photo+courtesy+of+Cole+Mickelson%2C+Phoenix+Suns%29
Baker alumnus Julian Mills works out Leandro Barbosa of the Phoenix Suns. Mills is an assistant video coordinator for the Phoenix Suns. (Photo courtesy of Cole Mickelson, Phoenix Suns)

Baker alumnus Julian Mills works out Leandro Barbosa of the Phoenix Suns. Mills is an assistant video coordinator for the Phoenix Suns. (Photo courtesy of Cole Mickelson, Phoenix Suns)

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Baker alumnus Julian Mills works out Leandro Barbosa of the Phoenix Suns. Mills is an assistant video coordinator for the Phoenix Suns. (Photo courtesy of Cole Mickelson, Phoenix Suns)

Story by Trevor Lininger

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From the start of their playing days, most athletes aspire to make it big. For baseball players, it’s MLB; for football players, it’s the NFL; for basketball players, it’s the NBA. For Julian Mills, he’s made it to the NBA, but differently than he may have expected.

Mills, who last played basketball for the Wildcats in 2014, went on to work for USA Basketball and is currently an assistant video coordinator for the Phoenix Suns of the National Basketball Association.

“The head coach has entrusted me with a lot, and now I get to travel with the team,” Mills said. “It’s really a crazy role.”

The job demands a large time commitment and special attention to detail combined with a strong basketball IQ.

“I break down film for the coaching staff at such a high level,” Mills said. “Just imagine watching a game and typing the whole time, watching every play and every move. Each play is a video clip that you have to break down in detail for the coaches and players.”

Mills understands what his work is building toward. His future career goals are to be much more than a video coordinator. Mills hopes to follow the footsteps of current NBA general managers and head coaches such as Erik Spoelstra of the Miami Heat, who started out as a video coordinator in the NBA.

Mills recounts his time at Baker fondly. He said the skills he learned as a student-athlete at Baker have helped him succeed.

“It was a fun experience, but it also makes you grow up quite a bit,” Mills said. “You learn how to prioritize tests, homework, games and your social life, which has helped me out in my current role a lot.”

Current Baker basketball head coach Sean Dooley recognized Mills’ passion for success.

“He was actually one of the first guys I recruited when I took over here,” Dooley said. “He was one of those that was going to work hard and try to be successful. It was really important for him to succeed in really anything and everything he did, whether that was in basketball as an individual or for us as a team.”

Ron Christian, assistant professor of sports administration at Baker, understands what drives people like Mills to pursue a career in sports. Before Baker, he worked as an assistant athletic director and sports information director as well as supervising communication initiatives for the Mountain West Conference.

Christian said people in jobs such as Mills is pursuing need an internal motivation and love of the game as they build strong relationships through their work.

While Mills has a good start working in the NBA, Baker University Assistant Athletic Director Tyler Price said that a career in either collegiate or professional sports simply is not for everyone.

“I think you have to be a really competitive person to do it right because you’re in every game, and you want your team to win,” Price said. “We’re always trying to compete, whether it’s the things I do in my office, with things that other schools and what they do, so just the competitive nature of it makes it really fun.”

Mills said he is having fun, and he especially appreciates the talent of the NBA players he watches.

“It is great just being able to wake up and go to work in gym shorts and a shirt and watch basketball played by some of the best athletes in the world,” Mills said. “You get to interact with the best players and learn the game at the absolute highest level.”

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