Don’t Let His Age Fool You: New FBA Owner Meenyus Miller Jr. Realizes Dream He’s Prepared for Since His Early Teens

WEIS WORDS

John Weis


The year was 2008 and Meenyus “MJ” Miller Jr. was barely a teenager. While all his friends were worried about the time and location of their next pick-up basketball game, MJ was already dreaming about plans for his future … as the President of his own team. “I watched a lot of basketball as a kid and realized a player’s career doesn’t last forever; in fact, it can end at any moment. You’re not promised tomorrow. So I knew I had to figure out something else to do with the rest of my life while still being involved in the game I loved.”

Fast-forward to late last year, when Miller became the youngest team owner in the Florida Basketball Association at just 26 years of age. “All I asked for was the chance to show what I could do,” said Miller, whose expansion team will be called the Brevard Bobcats. “I have been preparing for this opportunity for many years. I take my hat off to (FBA Executives) Mark King and Greg Kite, who looked beyond my age and took the time to get to know me. Once they did, they realized I knew what I was talking about and that I had a blueprint for success.”

One thing’s for certain: no one will outwork Miller, who toils tirelessly to be a good example for his one-year-old daughter, Gihanna. In addition to owning and operating the Bobcats, he currently has an IT job and also trains young athletes using the knowledge he gained at Methodist University in North Carolina, where he earned a degree in Sports Therapy. In 2017, he attended the US Olympic Sports Clinic in Miami, where he became Olympic Certified in Sports Medicine and Exercise Physiology. “I tell the kids I train and the guys I coach that if they put God at the head of the table and are dedicated to their craft, anything is possible. But you have to be willing to put in the work and make sacrifices. I waited for my opportunity for a long time, and now my patience has paid off.”

Miller played semipro ball in Central Florida for two seasons but the experience was not a completely positive one for him. “I liked playing at that level but a lot of guys were only there for themselves,” recalls Miller. “You would hear people bragging about how they scored 30 points but they didn’t mention it took them 40 shots to get there … or that their team lost by 25 points. Because I was a more team-oriented guy, playing in that environment took away some of the fun.”

Miller is ready to bring an exciting brand of team basketball to the Brevard area that fans will appreciate. “I have been in this area for about 20 years and I know the community has already proven they’re receptive of professional basketball here. I hold my team to a high standard and do things right, so when people in our community hear the Brevard Bobcats name mentioned, it will give them a feeling of pride,” he explained.

Once the COVID period passes, he plans on opening a Brevard chapter of the FBA Junior League. Just after Thanksgiving, he’ll be organizing a 3-on-3 league to give his players more opportunities to play in real games. “It’s also a unique way for guys to try out for the team under fire,” says Miller. “I will even have a second group of guys I’m calling the Farmhouse team, equivalent to what a G-League team is to an NBA franchise. This gives additional players the opportunity to keep getting better and gaining more experience.”

Though Miller is new to the FBA, the league is not new to him as he’s been researching its teams for several years. “The talent level is amazing in the FBA. I have already seen the existing teams and I know the reputation of Coach AJ (Stallworth) with the other new team in Gainesville (the Mighty Oaks) – he’ll make sure they’re very good. In the FBA you have to bring it every game; if you don’t, I feel sorry for you!” Miller will also coach the team and is excited to pit his skills against the other FBA floor generals.

According to Miller, there is one big reason he decided to set up shop in Brevard County. “There is so much high-quality talent here and I am excited to be able to put it on display. I want players to know they don’t need to go to a bigger city to get exposure; they can get it right here as long as they’re willing to work their tails off. The ultimate goal of the Brevard Bobcats is helping people pursue their dreams – and I’m going to do everything within my power to help them get to the next level. I worked hard to fulfill my dream to become an owner and I will get just as much joy from watching others achieve their goals, knowing I played a part in that success.”

“Brevard has a strong minor league basketball history, going back to the Brevard Blue Ducks of the old USBL,” said Kite, the FBA Commissioner. “Meenyus has a very solid plan to impact Brevard in the same manner, putting a competitive group together while also focusing on community outreach. They had a great first showing in Gainesville, defeating the Florida Flight in the Corona Classic tournament last month. We’re pretty excited to see how they will fare in the 2021 regular season.”

The aforementioned Corona Classic was broadcast online and gained 2,500 views. “Many of those views were attributed to our fans so I know there is already a great deal of interest in us,” Miller said “There are a lot of people who are rooting for me to succeed … people who have heard about our plan and are excited to come along with us on this journey. I want the Bobcats to become one of the biggest things we have in Brevard and I’m going to do what it takes to make sure that gets done.”

The FBA is a Florida-based professional basketball league providing a development, branding and exposure platform for athletes, referees and other individuals seeking to further their professional basketball careers.

Winter Park Storm Foresees Smooth Sailing Heading into Year Two

WEIS WORDS

John Weis


The Winter Park Storm of the Florida Basketball Association (FBA) spent their inaugural 2019 season gaining a foothold in their home city and going through the typical growing pains you might expect from a first-year franchise. But that didn’t stop them from putting first-class products both on and off the court – and winning over the hearts of a large number of fans in the process.

The Storm’s Braylen Pickens lays one up in traffic.

Storm Coach Barry Mestel believes the winning culture starts at the top and is confident his team is fortunate in that regard. “Our owner, Ernest Jones, sets the tone by creating as much of a professional environment as possible. We have created an exciting brand of entertainment for our fans, and we are very appreciative of them for the support they’ve given us.”

The Storm is one of eight teams in the FBA, which considers itself a developmental league. “Our goal is to help our guys get opportunities to play and be seen,” said Jones, a former FBA player. “Even if they aren’t able to get to the NBA, there are many opportunities overseas for players who still want to play professionally. This is the type of player we look for; someone who is willing to work hard to do what it takes to further their careers and win games in Winter Park with the Storm.”

Jones says his players are fortunate to be coached by someone with Mestel’s resume. “I know firsthand what a fantastic teacher he is. I met him several years back while playing for a team called the Orlando Aces. After that, we crossed paths again when he was training a group of players that included a good friend of mine, Alex Hill. That gave me the opportunity to get to know Coach Mestel even better. So when the opportunity came up with the Storm and I needed a coach, he was the obvious choice. Coach has more than 40 years of experience in the game – many of which were spent at the highest level.”

Mestel began his coaching career at his alma mater in Connecticut, where he compiled a 137-17 record. He then advanced to the college ranks, coaching under the legendary Fred Barakat at Fairfield University. After stints as a head coach at the JUCO level for both men’s and women’s teams in Connecticut, Mestel moved to Florida. Soon after, he met former Orlando Magic and Dallas Mavericks coach Richie Adubato, then the coach of the WNBA’s New York Liberty – and the two became fast friends. Adubato invited him to the Liberty’s training camp to serve as a shooting coach. He later landed a scouting position with the Orlando Magic, working with then-General Manager John Gabriel and Director of Scouting Gary Brokaw.

Mestel and Adubato also co-host a weekly basketball-themed radio show called Full-Court Coverage, Monday evenings at 7pm EST on 96.9 FM in Orlando. The show is currently in its sixth year.

“We have an acronym we abide by with the Storm: ACE. It stands for Attitude, Commitment and Effort. We play for each other and because of that, it doesn’t matter who does the scoring as long as we put the ball through the hoop,” said Mestel, describing his coaching style. “Ernest and I expect complete buy-in from the players. If they cannot commit to the team 100% they will not play. Also, we make practices more demanding that any game could ever be. No team will outwork us and no team will be in better shape.”

Meanwhile, it’s up to Mestel to put his players in the best position to win. “To get positive on-court results from a team, a coach has to look at the players he has and determine what each one does best,” Mestel said. “Then, he exploits those abilities and makes sure what the players do well becomes part of the offensive and defensive game plans.”

The Storm, who play their games at the Winter Park Community Center, plan to continue being active participants in helping the city’s kids become better players – and better young people – once the COVID period is officially over. “We will be re-starting our Youth Basketball Academy, which helps not only improve their athletic skills, but also their life skills,” Mestel explained. “Once a game is over the scoreboard always goes back to 0-0 … but what you learn from the game of basketball – both on and off the court – these are lessons that add up for a lifetime. Whatever we can do off the court to positively influence young lives is just as important as what we do on the court.”

Winter Park Community Center, Home of the Winter Park Storm.

The Winter Park Storm is a Minor League Basketball Team playing in the Florida Basketball Association (FBA). The Storm is committed to having a strong sense of community and service, while upholding a standard of excellence throughout our organization. For more information on the team, please visit www.thestormhoops.com.

Brandon Moss: Nothin’ but Net Gain for Florida Flight

Weis Words

John Weis

“Run! Run! Get back on defense!” yells Brandon Moss, shouting instructions to the kids in his charge at the Florida Flight Basketball Academy in Longwood, Florida. On this day, Moss is the special guest attraction and the young attendees are awestruck, mesmerized by his off-the-charts athleticism and 6’ 8” frame. As for Moss, he’s just happy to be part of the action. “Anyplace where there’s a court and a basketball I’ll be there … and I’ll always have a smile on my face.”

Brandon Moss greets kids during the 2019 Florida Flight China exposure tour.

That’s Brandon Moss in a nutshell.

Arguably the most talented player in the 11-year history of the Florida Flight of the Florida Basketball Association, Moss averaged 30 points, 13.7 rebounds and 5.7 assists per game last season as the Flight captured its first FBA championship. “We played for each other. When you see everyone giving their best effort it makes you want do the same for them,” he said. “It was just a really good group of guys to be around.”

Flight Coach Mark King sees Moss not only as an extraordinary talent, but also someone with the passion to be the best. “Many times, a star player is content with just being the most talented player on his team. But that’s not the case with Brandon. He’s chasing greatness, which makes him a lot of fun to coach. Most people recognize Brandon for his high-flying dunks and spectacular blocks, but he’s a complete player who really excels on both ends of the court.”

Born and raised in Alabama, Moss attended Midfield High School. He initially split time between football and basketball but ultimately abandoned the gridiron to focus on hoops full-time despite being a talented prep wide receiver. “I remember the precise moment I made that decision,” he recalls. “I went over the middle to catch a pass and a linebacker lit me up. That quickly led me away from football. By the time basketball season came around I was 6’4” and I knew I was pretty good at it. From then on, basketball was my sport.”

After high school, Moss opted for the JUCO college basketball route and by his sophomore season at Shelton State, he’d drawn the attention of several major schools. But his unwillingness to sit out a season led him to choose NAIA powerhouse LSU Alexandria in Louisiana – where he would be immediately eligible – for his final two seasons. Moss quickly went to work with his new team, setting a school record in points scored as a Junior and leading the Generals to a 31-0 undefeated 2016-17 regular season. He then exceeded those numbers as a Senior by more than 100 points, garnering All-American honors as the team advanced to the NAIA Final game, losing on an overtime buzzer beater to Graceland University.

Brandon Moss earns Player of the Week honors, LSU-Alexandria, Red River Conference.

While at LSUA, Moss forced his way into national prominence by winning the NAIA Slam Dunk championship. “We had just finished a playoff game that afternoon and I only had a couple hours to recover before the dunk contest,” he recalls. “People were asking me if I still wanted to participate. I told them there would be plenty of time to sleep after it was over, so I just gave it everything I had. I lined up my 6’11 and 6’9” teammates and a couple kids from the crowd – and did my famous jump-over.”

It was that same otherworldly athletic ability that captured the attention of every FBA executive in the building at the league’s annual combine in March 2019. “Brandon immediately stood out,” King said. “It took all of about 10 minutes – and me seeing four quick and easy dunks – to initiate a call to his agent.” The contract was signed the next day.

“When I found out the Flight were planning an extended trip to China I was very excited because it was a new way for me to get looks from teams in other countries,” Moss explained. “It was my first opportunity outside the United States. Once we got there, Coach King just told us to have fun and win games … and that’s what we did. Then we came back and won the league championship a few months later. I haven’t regretted joining the Flight for a second.”

Shortly after the conclusion of the FBA season, Moss was invited to attend tryouts for the NBA G League’s South Bay Lakers, the affiliate of the Los Angeles Lakers. Although he made a strong impression and performed well in several exhibition games, he was among the Lakers’ final roster cuts. “I learned from this experience that professional basketball is a business,” he said. “But being there was great for me because I proved I can compete with some of the best players in the world. It just wasn’t the right fit at that time but I’m determined to find the perfect one for me.”

Moss wasn’t without a team for long, though, as his agent, Tabetha Plummer, found a different opportunity for him. During the Flight’s trip to China he was discovered by a team in Chile, CDU de Concepcion, who kept him on their radar and eventually signed him to be one of the three allotted Americans on their roster.

Though unsure of what to expect at first, Moss thoroughly enjoyed his Chile experience. “In the United States, the fans cheer for you and that’s kind of where it stops. In Chile, they take their basketball very seriously. They’d practically die for you, especially when you’re winning,” Moss said. “We went from about 500 fans per game the year before to about 4,000 last year.”

Moss throws down a between-the-legs dunk on a fast break during a live game in Chile.

CDU de Concepcion languished in last place in the previous season but Moss and his new teammates elevated the team to a second-place regular-season finish. They then proceeded to sweep their first-round playoff series … and while waiting for the other series to end, the COVID pandemic hit the country and abruptly ended their season.

Now 26, Moss has relocated from the West Coast to the Orlando area since coming back from Chile, with a top priority of defending last season’s FBA Championship. “It is my goal to play at the highest level possible. I hope that’s the NBA but if it isn’t and I’m available, I’ll always come home to play for the Florida Flight.”

The FBA is a Florida-based professional basketball league providing a development, branding and exposure platform for athletes, referees and other individuals seeking to further their professional basketball careers.