December 28, 2016, published in the Orange County Register
Myles Franklin was developing a rhythm before a recent practice at Villa Park.
He released a shot directly under the basket. In. A few inches back, in. Some more inches back, in. It went this way all the way until the three-point line, when a teammate rushed up on him out of nowhere.
The teammate, laughing, shaking his head and toying with Franklin, wasn’t really intending to guard the Spartans’ 6-foot-4, 175-pound senior point guard and Northeastern commit.
Franklin didn’t seem to get the memo. Or maybe he didn’t care? All of a sudden Franklin’s wiry, lanky frame lulled his defender into a trap with a slow behind-the-legs-move before exploding with a behind-the-back move – so quick his white and turquoise sneakers blurred.
The defender lost his footing and Franklin had the space he craved. He leaned back, kicked his foot out and calmly drained a shot at the elbow.
“That’s unique these days, you don’t see the mid-range very much,” Villa Park coach Kevin Reynolds said. “SportsCenter just shows the dunk, shows the three.”
Franklin, who has guided Villa Park to a 7-2 start, doesn’t take plays off, even meaningless jests before practice.
“I just try to go out there and prove myself. That’s pretty much been my outlook from day one,” Franklin said. “I don’t let people bring me down.”
Just ask sophomore Julien Franklin, Myles’ 6-foot-4 brother on the team who has already secured offers from New Mexico and University of Nevada, Las Vegas. When Myles is on the court, a business-like attitude permeates.
“If I’m not going hard, he tells me to go harder,” Julien Franklin said. “He’s like the court leader, telling us what to do and how we should do things. He’s the guy we look to on the court at all times.”
Franklin earned all-tournament honors at two tournaments this season: The Tournament of Champions and the Tarkanian Classic. Five times he’s scored more than 20 points, including a 29-point, 10-assist outburst against Sierra Vista to lift his team to a 76-69 victory on Dec. 19.
He has the height to see over defenders for the pass and the versatility to score from multiple spots, including posting up smaller guards.
Most of his life, he said he has been underestimated because he is often thinner than his competition.
Even as he works to bulk up, spending hours weight-lifting and downing five big meals a day plus protein shakes, the floor general’s metabolism is as fast as his first-step.
His father, Kenny Franklin, taught him to run the point, the position he played for Carroll College in Montana and then professionally for five years overseas. Kenny Franklin is the co-director of Dream Vision, an elite AAU program that Myles plays for –it has 71 former members playing Division I.
Kenny Franklin placed a ball in his son’s palms at age 2. He taught the boy to not just play ball but watch it, analyzing film of guards such as Russell Westbrook, Rajon Rondo and Chris Paul – the way they attacked screens or huddled teammates during free throws.
“My dad taught me to always give my all every time I’m on the floor,” Franklin said.
When Franklin was in sixth grade, his dad had him sprint up and down steep hills, attached to a parachute, in a park near Fullerton for two hours straight.
“Basketball kept us together as a family,” Kenny Franklin said. “Thanksgiving morning, we’re shooting hoops. Everyone else is eating, we’re in the gym at about 10 a.m. Christmas morning, same thing: we go shoot.”
Franklin learned to be competitive in everything, even backgammon.
“We quit playing together because we almost got into a brawl,” Kenny Franklin said, laughing, recalling the time he was coaching in China and brought his then 13-year-old son with him. Playing one-on-one, son was locking up on dad closer than ever before. Kenny Franklin had to tell his son to stop fouling him.
“It was like he wasn’t my son,” Kenny Franklin said. “He was trying to check me, like, ‘I don’t care if you’re my dad.’”
Franklin has long had mental toughness, though the physical did not bloom simultaneously. A 5-foot-8, scrawny Franklin was placed on the junior varsity team as a freshman. He had talent and skills, but couldn’t physically compete with the grind of varsity ball.
“It was a hard thing for him,” Reynolds said. “But he never pouted about it. He accepted it, he kept making himself better and better.”
Since ascending to varsity, Franklin has been a force for Villa Park as a two-time, all-conference player.
He went on a scoring spree in early December, notching 24 against Trinity International, 27 against Lakewood and 22 against Canyon.
Franklin has also improved his defense, using his length to cover more space. This summer, playing with Dream Vision, Franklin guarded Mississippi State-bound point guard Nick Weatherspoon. When Franklin stuck to him in the first half, Kenny Franklin said, Witherspoon was held to a single point. When Franklin was off in the second? Witherspoon dropped 38.
Franklin, who is working on his strength in preparation for the rigors of college ball, still hears doubts about his weight, even though he doesn’t shy away from contact when he drives to the hoop.
He welcomes the noise.
“He just keeps that stuff in his head,” Dad said. “He’ll make you pay later.”