Basketball player helps make sports history for his home country

5 – minute read

Franco Miller Jr., a guard on Florida Gulf Coast University’s men’s basketball team, helped make sports history for his home country last summer. Miller was part of the Bahamas men’s international squad that claimed its biggest victory to date and moved one step closer to a first-ever appearance in the Olympics.


By winning the FIBA Olympics Pre-Qualifying Tournament in August in Argentina, the Bahamas team advanced to qualifying tournaments for the 2024 Paris Olympic Games. A native of Freeport, Bahamas, Miller characterized the experience of playing alongside several countrymen currently competing professionally in the U.S. and abroad as the top moment of his basketball life.

“Most definitely it’s the highlight of my career so far just because of the environment for one thing and also because it meant so much to us in the Bahamas,” Miller said. “It’s the first time the Bahamas has ever made it to the second round of the qualifiers. We actually have a chance, I think, to make the Olympics for the first time. I definitely think that’s pretty cool.”


The road to the pre-qualifying tournament title was arduous for Miller and his teammates, who had to defeat Argentina, then ranked No. 4 in the world, not just once but twice — and on Argentina’s home court.


The Bahamas team handily dispatched Cuba, 109-68, in group play before facing Argentina for the first time two days later, taking a 101-89 victory. Miller poured in 18 points and added five rebounds and two assists against Cuba. He contributed three points, two assists and a rebound in the team’s first meeting with Argentina to help the Bahamas advance to the semifinals.

FGCU basketball player

In the semis, Bahamas outlasted Uruguay, 78-62, behind 13 points, five rebounds and four assists from Miller. The team then found itself facing the tournament hosts from Argentina again in the final, taking an 82-75 win. There, Miller supplied nine points and two rebounds as his team moved on to the Olympics qualifying round, to be held in July in Spain. The Paris Games are July 26-Aug. 11.


“Going into Argentina and winning two games against the home team, which is a tough thing to do, that was one of the coolest experiences I’ve ever had,” he said. “It was a very hostile environment, to be honest. The Argentinians take their sports very seriously. Their basketball team has been very tough over the years. The crowds are pretty big. Their fans were crying after the game when we beat them, and that was bittersweet to see.”

FGCU basketball player

Miller shared court time with NBA players and professionals who compete internationally. Leading the Bahamas team was head coach Chris DeMarco, a Golden State Warriors assistant coach.


“It was pretty cool playing alongside players like Buddy Hield (Indiana Pacers), Eric Gordon (Phoenix Suns), Deandre Ayton (Portland Trail Blazers), Kai Jones (Charlotte Hornets) and some of those guys,” he said. “That was something that definitely has helped me learn a lot, helped me learn to pick my spot and other parts of the game.”


After moving from the Bahamas to Canada for his high school senior year in Toronto, Miller began his college career at the University of Mississippi in 2018. He took a redshirt his freshman year at Ole Miss. The next year, he played in 19 games, averaging about 7 minutes a game, before transferring to FGCU.

The opportunity to enroll at a university closer to his Caribbean home was a big part of his decision to become an Eagle and continue a lifelong dream of playing college basketball. “I just always wanted to hoop since I was younger. I followed along that path from a young age,” he said.


“My journey has been unique, seeing as I had to go to Canada for a year. That led me to Ole Miss, and that led me closer to home,” Miller said. “When the opportunity presented itself to come here, I knew I would love to take that on. I watched the Sweet 16 team as a kid. I thought it was pretty cool I had the opportunity to play for that school.”

Miller was referring to FGCU’s magical run in the 2013 NCAA Division I men’s basketball tournament, which he watched on TV at age 17. That year, the Eagles became the first No. 15 seed to advance to the Sweet 16, behind a high-octane offense that had fans and commentators referring to FGCU as “Dunk City.”

FGCU basketball player

Miller said his favorite memory of playing for the Eagles — at least so far — is beating Pac-12 conference behemoth the University of Southern California on its home court in 2022.


“It was the first game of the season, and I thought it was pretty cool. I thought USC was a very tough place to play,” he said. Trailing by one point after the first half, the Eagles outscored the Trojans by 14 in the second half to claim a 74-61 victory, avenging a 78-61 home loss the year before.


As he approaches the end of his college career, Miller said he is enjoying his final games as an Eagle and keeping his eye on the future.


“My goal is to stay healthy and strong. This summer I play with the Bahamas national team in Spain. I eventually hope to get a contract after that and start my professional career wherever and whenever that is, wherever my path takes me,” he said. “I’ve had a great time, great teammates and great coaches. I’ve definitely enjoyed my time at Florida Gulf Coast, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.”

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