The Kitchener-Waterloo Titans ended their sixth season on Sunday, May 14, with a 94-89 loss in game four of the National Basketball League of Canada semifinals. The end of their post-season run meant it was time for the team’s players to return to their home cities across Canada and the U.S. But for Juwan Miller, the team’s lone Kitchener-based player, the trip home is a short drive across town from the Kitchener Memorial Auditorium.
Growing up in Kitchener, Miller attended Sand Hills and Queensmount public schools and Forest Heights Collegiate Institute and Huron Heights Secondary School for high school. While playing high school basketball, Miller was a first-team all-star in the Waterloo County Secondary School Athletic Association (WCSSA) and part of Ontario’s Under-17 squad. But basketball was not Miller’s first choice for sports.
“My first sport was hockey. I grew up playing hockey and baseball until I was about. Then I watched the movie Like Mike. That’s when I quit hockey and said basketball was my calling,” Miller said.
Basketball was a new sport in the Miller home. His father is a runner, and Miller said his father took it upon himself to learn everything about basketball he could to help.
“My dad was the one that taught me everything I know. He just learned the basics, from the fundamentals of crossovers, dribbling and layups. My goal was to play in the NBA, but as I started to learn the game, I just wanted to play professionally,” he said.
After graduating high school, Miller played at Missouri University of Science and Technology in Rolla, Missouri. He made the Great Lakes Valley Conference all-defensive team for the 2016-2017 season and had the second-most assists in the team’s history.
Miller graduated in 2019 with a Bachelor of Science in Business Information Systems Technology and entered that year’s NBA draft.
Miller was not selected in the draft, but that did not end his dream of playing professional basketball. He tried out for the Titans and was chosen for the team for their 2019-20 season. While that season was cut short due to COVID-19, Miller was able to make the team again in 2021 and 2022, when he helped lead the team to the post-season play—including the National Basketball League of Canada (NBLC) finals in 2021.
“I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time with the Titans. Obviously, we want to bring back a championship to the city and come out on top for once. It was great to fight back like we did in the first round of finals. The whole year has been a growing process,; I’m constantly pushed by my teammates and my coaches,” Miller said.
The season was bookended by two significant changes for the professional basketball team. Firstly, the team’s ownership changed on Nov. 22, 2022, when local realtors David and Kate Schooley purchased the team from previous owner Leon Martin.
Then, on April 11, 2023, Schooley, along with executives from the NBLC and the U.S.-based The Basketball League, announced the launch of The Basketball Super League, a new professional basketball league modelled after premiere professional soccer leagues in Europe. The league will feature 10-12 teams in the U.S. and Canada and will play an expanded season of home and away games. The Titans, the London Lighting and Sudbury Five will be among the teams playing when the league launches in December.
While the couple had no prior basketball or sports team ownership experience, they had been longtime team sponsors. Schooley said they loved the energy of the team and wanted to see it continue to grow in Kitchener.
“I only went to my first NBA game in December. The ticket I bought would have been up in the blues at the Rangers game—and that ticket was over $300. It wasn’t even a special game. We’re providing really good value here. I don’t think anybody really understands the calibre of this ball until you come out and see it,” Schooley said.
Schooley added that he sees the new league as an opportunity to help cement the Titans as a core part of the community on par with the OHL Kitchener Rangers and IBL Kitchener Panthers. He said he hopes that Miller will be the start of a long line of Kitchener players on the team.
“We love having a hometown kid. I’m hoping over the next decade or so, we will have a ton because KW is a big basketball town. We have a lot of talent coming out of this area,” Schooley said.
Miller plans on trying out for the Titans again as they prepare for the first season of the Basketball Super League. While making the team is not set in stone, he said the large pool of teams and games could provide more exposure to agents and scouts across the U.S. and internationally.
“People already know how good the teams in the NBLC have been getting. It’s starting to blow up. Now with the Super League, they want to rival the other leagues in the states like the NBA G League. They want to make this league as big as possible,” Miller said.
Miller continues to have one constant throughout his professional basketball career: his parents. He said he would not have the opportunities he has had without them.
“They were always at my high school games and tournaments in the stands. Now that I’m a pro, they’ve been able to sit courtside and cheer me on. I can hear them sometimes. It’s an amazing to know they’re still here supporting me like nothing ever changed.”
Alex Kinsella is a freelance content marketer and writer based in Waterloo Region, Ontario. He's behind the TL;WR newsletter–Waterloo Region's weekly events newsletter. He's worked with some of Canada's most well known tech companies in roles including customer success, development, product management, PR, social media and marketing. Alex has contributed to publications including BetaKit, Grand Magazine and more.