This is not Isaiah Miles' first rodeo.
The former St. Joseph's forward was in the same position last year — on the 76ers' summer-league squad hoping someone would see him as a diamond in the rough. But, being underestimated and rising to a challenge is also not new for the 6-foot-7 Miles.
"It's probably the most fantastic success story in my 24 years at St. Joe's," Hawks coach Phil Martelli said Saturday.
Miles was never expected to be anything other than average when his college career started, and at first, he wasn't. At the end of his sophomore year, his father, Eric, went to Martelli's office. His complaint was not what the coach was expecting.
The elder Miles told Martelli that he hadn't been hard enough on his son. After that meeting, Martelli said he was more aggressive with Miles and got after him more in practice and games.
"He wasn't in love with basketball before that," Martelli said. "But he stayed the course, and he changed. He wanted to be all-league, be a professional, and leave a mark on the game."
Miles went from a relatively unknown player to being named the most improved player in the Atlantic 10 and Big 5. Alongside DeAndre' Bembry, he led the Hawks to a 28-8 season, the second-most wins in school history, and an Atlantic 10 tournament championship. Miles established himself as a force, hitting game-winning shots, expanding his skill set, and he helped guide the young players on his team.
His guidance wasn't just on the court. Miles graduated with a degree in criminal justice and prided himself on being a successful student-athlete.
"He put in the extra work, extra shooting, lost weight, changed everything," Martelli said. "He always had a support system. His parents never missed a game. But when he fell in love with the game, it was extraordinary."
Miles has spent the last two years playing internationally, trying to soak up everything he could. He's leaned on players who have NBA experience such as C.J. Watson and Jordan Hamilton, who were teammates in Turkey, for wisdom and advice.
Miles has tried to refine his game and grow in every area possible, all with one goal in mind: to get a spot on an NBA team. Whether that's at the end of a roster, on a G League deal, or a two-way contract, it doesn't matter.
"I'd be blessed to call myself an NBA player and be on the court," Miles said. "Whether that's one game or 20 games, it doesn't matter to me as long as I get the opportunity."
Sixers assistant coach Kevin Young, who is coaching the summer-league team, said that he could see Miles generating interest for a two-way contract from NBA teams and should be in those conversations.
"He's solid," Young said. "He does what you ask of him: he rebounds, he plays defense, and he's a guy that can make shots. His shooting ability really is what sets him apart from some other guys."
After a year in France, where he shot 46.8 percent on three-pointers, and then spending last season in Turkey, the journey led back to Philadelphia, and back to St. Joe's. Though Miles is from Baltimore and has a trainer there, he's been living in Center City and working out at his old stomping grounds in preparation for the Sixers' summer-league games.
"I consider it a real badge of honor when I hear the ball bouncing and I see that it's one of my former players out there," Martelli said. "When we're finished here, I want to celebrate with them and commiserate with them. So when they come back, it's one of the greatest tributes I can have."
In the Sixers' summer-league opener in Las Vegas, it was Furkan Korkmaz who stole the show, racking up 40 points in a 95-89 loss to the Celtics on Friday night. Miles was the only other Sixer to score in double figures, finishing with 11 points, eight rebounds, two assists, and a block in 26 minutes off the bench.
On Saturday, Miles finished with four points and 11 rebounds in 22 minutes of a 96-79 loss to the Lakers.
Miles has saved up money while playing overseas and is ready to give his full attention to a chance at breaking into the NBA, even if it means spending the season on a G League roster.