Don’t be surprised if Keenan Milburn asks how to say ‘pick and roll’ in German in the coming weeks. He’s just preparing, as usual.
The former point guard for the SAIT Trojans men’s basketball team has signed a one-year contract with BBV Hagen, a B-Division club team in the German-based Basketball Bundesliga (Federal Basketball League).
“I’m very excited. Can’t beat going over there, and basically getting paid to play the sport I love,” said Milburn, a graduate of the SAIT Polytechnic Business Administration program. “It’s just something new. I’ve never been over to Europe. It’s a great opportunity.”
Hagen is listed as the country’s 39th largest city, and is located approximately 60 kilometres east of Dusseldorf – a long way from home for the Royston, B.C. native.
Milburn starred at SAIT for three seasons (2007-10) after being plucked out of Mark R. Isfeld High School by Trojans head coach Mike Stevens.
“Excited for him, happy for him,” said Stevens about the first player he ever recruited for SAIT. “(Keenan) is a good example of when you take some talent, work hard, and go after your dreams.”
The SAIT Trojans men’s basketball Rookie of the Year in 2008 and team MVP in 2009 admitted that Stevens was the only coach to recruit him out of high school, and that if he hadn’t, the chance to play professionally overseas might not have happened.
“He’s one of the best coaches I ever had,” Milburn said. “Anything I wanted, he was there for me. He was always honest with me about improving my game.”
Improving his game was important to Milburn, and that became evident to Stevens from Day 1. “He really is a coach’s dream,” said the Trojans bench boss. “He came in, he was quiet his first year. He worked hard, he did whatever was asked, and
then he started to get ambitious in wanting to know what it was going to take for him to be considered a great player.
“I remember him constantly coming into my office and me giving him a list of things to work on, and he each day he would just go out and master one and then he would come back want another one.”
In 2010, Milburn ended his successful stint in SAIT silks with a runner-up silver finish at the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) national championship, losing to the University of Northern British Columbia in the gold-medal final.
The following year, he started a two-year run with the University of Calgary Dinos, and in 2012-13, Milburn split time playing with the city’s American Basketball Association team, the Calgary Crush, as well as helping out Stevens as an assistant coach on the Trojans’ bench.
Now he is ready for even more.
Milburn equated his impending move to Germany like the one he faced moving from the small town in B.C. to Calgary – daunting. But, early on in his first year with the Trojans, he earned a starting role, which assured him that he made the right choice to move to Alberta, and more importantly, that his abilities played on a bigger stage.
“I think it really showed when I made the jump to CIS when I went from SAIT to the (University of Calgary),” he said, looking back fondly at his time with the Trojans. “Mike really kind of gave me the go ahead and the confidence I needed to play at the next level. He really let me do whatever I needed to do on the floor, within the confines of the offence. It was such a good experience.”
BBV Hagen has turned into somewhat of a landing spot for former Dinos players. Uo C alum Chris Harris and Chris Wright, a Crush teammate of Milburn, also spent time with the club, and together, their recommendations helped land the six-foot-one guard a one-year deal.
The 23-year-old leaves for Germany on Sept. 4, and has been spending his time leading up to his departure where else, but on the court practising.
When talk of expectations come up he takes a second to collect his thoughts, like a point guard slowing down the play to see what his best options are to score.
“If I can move up, get a new contract and make some more money that would be awesome,” Milburn said. “And if I only get a year out of it, and get to travel the other side of the world, then I’m happy with that, too. Really, right now I’ll be playing it by ear.”
– SAIT Trojans