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A Letter from Seville

Jefferson grad Aaron Miles writes about life and pro basketball in Spain
by: GIULIO CIAMILLO, 
Aaron Miles (left) has split point guard duties with fellow American Elmer Bennett for Sevilla Cajasol.

Editor's note: Aaron Miles is a former Jefferson High basketball standout who is playing professionally this season with Sevilla Cajasol in Spain's top league. The 6-1 point guard, who played his college ball at Kansas and played 19 games with Golden State during the 2005-06 NBA season, is averaging nine points and four assists with Sevilla Cajasol. Miles, who turned 25 on April 13, is in his second season in Europe after playing last year in France.

I would like to start this with a shout out to my fellow Democrats over at Jefferson. Our school is constantly under a lot of scrutiny, and for both our girls and boys teams to win the 5A state championship, it shined a lot of light on a school covered by dark clouds. It also shows that we are 'the School of Champions, School of Pride.'

Not only am I proud of you all, but the whole city is proud of you.

Also, I must congratulate coach Tony Broadous and his Grant Generals for winning the 6A boys state title.

You all represented Portland well.

I am playing ball in a beautiful southern city in Spain called Seville. I have been here since August and will return to Portland sometime in May. Our team name is Cajasol, and we play in the top league in Spain. It's called the ACB (Asociación de Clubs de Baloncesto).

The Trail Blazers' Sergio Rodriguez came from the same league, and Rudy Fernandez, the Blazers' 2007 first-round draft pick, is playing in the league this year.

Being that it is the best league in Europe from top to bottom, the competition is great. The only negative is that we play only one game a week but have two practices a day. I don't mind the practicing, but I would much rather play games twice a week.

I made the decision to come here in early August after debating whether to accept an invitation to training camp with the Washington Wizards. My dilemma was, Do I sign a guaranteed contract with a European team or a nonguaranteed contract with an NBA team in hopes of making the squad?

Maybe I could have gone to the Wizards' camp and, if I didn't make it, then sign to go overseas. But the leagues here start their preseason in August, and the NBA doesn't start until October, so if you go to an NBA camp, all the good jobs in Europe might be taken if you get cut.

So a player must decide what's most important to him. Some who aspire to play in the NBA will go to the Development League in hopes that an NBA team will call them up.

I've played in the NBA and would love to get back and stick in the league, but I realize I have about 10 to 12 years of playing basketball left, Lord willing. I must financially establish myself for my future. I don't have a problem with making a career out of playing pro basketball in Europe.

I came to Spain in the middle of August, when our team began preseason workouts. For the first week, we had a 'concentration camp,' which consisted of us staying at a hotel and having three training sessions a day. This not only helped us get in shape but to get to know our teammates and coaches.

We would wake up and go running about 7:30 a.m., then come back and eat breakfast. We'd lift weights at 11 a.m., then work on individual skill development on the court. After lunch, we'd reconvene about 6 p.m. for our actual practice, where we would learn the plays, play five-on-five and so forth.

After that week, we started having two practices a day, and I was placed in the apartment that the club provides for me and given a car. It's a nice crib but a lot smaller than I anticipated. It's funny - the club sort of tricked me into thinking it was some big apartment when I was told it was four bedrooms and two bathrooms. The rooms are small and are right next to each other. I guess sardines should have it so good.

Losses stacked up

At the start of the season, I figured our team was going to be destroying everybody. We had a great coach in Ruben Pablo, who was the Argentine national team's coach when it won the Olympics in 2004, and we had many players with good reputations.

We started with two other U.S. players, both shooting guards - Tyrone Ellis, who played at Southern Nazarene from 1997 to 2001, and Pat Carroll, who played at St. Joseph's from 2001 to 2005.

We had five Spaniards, a player from Greece, another from England and one from Poland. On paper, we looked like a for-sure playoff team, but that is far from how the season has gone.

We lost our first four games, but when we finally got that first win, we just knew we were going to turn things around. Turned out otherwise. We lost our next game, and at the end of the first half of the season our record was 4-13. We hadn't put together back-to-back victories, and we hadn't won on the road. It was one of the most frustrating times in my basketball career.

Growing up playing for the Cisco Kids in Portland, the Democrats and the Kansas Jayhawks (who also got it done in the NCAA tourney this year), I was accustomed to winning. Through all the losing, I put a lot of the blame on myself for not leading us, and it really hurt my individual play.

Through the frustrations and stress, I am thankful to have a woman in my life who loves me and whom I love back - my girlfriend, Mikki Anthony.

She has been here with me since September. It's been a blessing to not only have her here, but to have her in my life. She has sacrificed a lot for me, and I'm very appreciative of her. She also is developing into the next Rachael Ray of the Food Network. She has been in the kitchen, cooking up some great meals.

Changes were made

At midseason, our management had to make some changes. First, they cut my man Pat Carroll, with whom I had developed a good relationship, and brought in Elmer Bennett, a 37-year-old American who had played in Spain for the past 10 years. He is a point guard with an incredible reputation in this country and has played for all the top teams here.

Initially, I questioned the club for bringing in another point guard. But after talking to Bennett, he let me know that he was here to add leadership to the team and help me with my development. So instead of getting defensive about the situation, I looked at it as an opportunity to learn and grow as a player.

Next, the management fired our coach midway through the season. Our new coach stressed that we needed to win as many games as possible the rest of the way in order to stay in the ACB, because the bottom two teams are relegated to the second division the following season.

The second half of the season has gone better. Our record is 12-19. My playing time has dropped off some with the addition of Bennett, but I have learned a lot. He and Ellis have been influential with my growth, both on and off the court.

Insight on Blazer pick

Rudy Fernandez is definitely one of the best players in our league. His team beat ours both times we played. The first game was close, but they really handed it to us the second game. He got in foul trouble the first game but was one of the reasons they came back and won. The second game, he had 20 points at halftime and sat out the rest of the way.

He is an aggressive scorer who shoots well and is athletic. He is decent at putting the ball on the floor. The biggest thing I like is, he plays hard.

I don't know if he's going to impact the Blazers as soon as he steps off the plane in Portland, but I think eventually he can find a rhythm in the NBA. He's a good enough player and works hard enough that he'll be able to make that adjustment.

Aside from losing, I have enjoyed my experience in Spain. I know I am truly blessed to be able to play the game I love for a living and to experience another country.

The weather is similar to that of Southern California - sunny and pleasant, but not too hot.

The food is pretty good, but different. The local cuisine features paella, which is a rice dish with seafood. People here also eat tapas, which are like appetizers.

But there are some things we do miss -mostly our family and friends. Though Mikki and I have each other, we still miss spending time with the people we love most. We keep in contact with them via e-mail and phone, but that's nowhere near the same as being with them.

Phone calls hardly satisfy

During the holidays, you call home and everybody is at the family gathering except you. Not only are we missing out on the greens, macaroni and cheese, dressing, ham, desserts, etc., but more important, that family atmosphere.

I miss being around for my little brother, Marlon, who is a junior at Jefferson. He's a scholar and three-sport athlete, excelling in football and track, and he was a part of the basketball championship team. I'm very proud of him. But for the past seven years, I've been away and haven't had a chance to really watch and support him the way I'd like.

When he scores a game-winning touchdown or sets a personal best in the 100-meter dash, I want to be in the crowd cheering him on. I know he understands why I'm not there, but it would mean so much to him if I was. When he graduated from Harriet Tubman Middle School a few years back, I wasn't able to attend the ceremony because it was during the start of my pro career.

I feel the same way about other family members and friends who are involved in activities. Besides Marlon, I have two brothers - Mark Miles Jr., 29, a local rapper known as 'Meezilini,' and Marcus Beltran, 32 - and a sister, Angela Miles, 31 - along with quite a few nieces, nephews and cousins. I wish I could be there to support them the way they've supported me.

'Hot' can be 'horny'

Mikki and I have a Spanish tutor who comes to the apartment once or twice a week. From that and just being around the language everyday, mi español es mejor de lo que era cuando llegue a España. That is, my Spanish is better than it was before I came to Spain.

I know enough to get what I need when I need it, but don't ask me to translate for you. Our tutor was teaching us about eating, and he said when your food is hot, you say 'está caliente.' So I'm thinking, 'caliente' means hot.

A few days later, I was talking to this woman who works in the team office, and the weather was really hot that day. I said to her, 'Estoy caliente,' and she gave me this crazy look.

I repeated myself, thinking she couldn't understand me, and she looked at me crazy again. Then I fanned myself to show her what I meant, and she started laughing. I asked what was funny, and she explained that caliente means hot when dealing with food, but when it's hot outside you say calor. Then she told me that the way I said caliente expressed that I was horny. I laughed and then apologized to her. It was hilarious.

There is a huge language barrier, but I've found that if you just try to speak their language, the natives are more patient and willing to help you.

Our season comes to an end with our last game May 9. I signed a two-year contract, with the second year at my option. I have to decide whether I want to return next year or explore other options.

Regardless, I probably will participate in one of the NBA summer leagues, but I'm not sure with what team. Other than that, I will divide my time between Kansas - where Mikki is from - and Portland, enjoying American food on U.S. soil while listening to fluent English being spoken and, most important, spending time with my family and friends.

I would like to thank everyone who has been influential in my life, and all of you who've supported me since my days at Jefferson. You all mean a lot to me, and I truly appreciate your love. God bless.