Chaplain With A Decent Jump Shot Former Kentucky guard Cameron Mills counsels his onetime teammates

March 22, 1999
March 22, 1999

Table of Contents
March 22, 1999


Chaplain With A Decent Jump Shot Former Kentucky guard Cameron Mills counsels his onetime teammates

You are a young man with very limited sexual experience. Not
only are you tall, sculptured and handsome, but also until
recently you were a key member of one of the most famous
basketball teams in the country. Every so often, when she's
bored and lonely and not much is going on, Ashley Judd stops by
your hotel room--in her pajamas.

This is an article from the March 22, 1999 issue Original Layout

What are you thinking, reclining on your bed with Ashley late at
night, pillow talking? Where is your attention? Your focus?

The University of Kentucky team chaplain, a fellow by the name
of Cameron Mills, has been face-to-face with Judd in her pajamas
in his hotel room. "Oh, Ashley's a friend of mine," he says.
"She's a big Kentucky supporter." He still does not get it.
Ashley Judd! In your hotel room! Wink-wink. "Ohhh," says Mills.
"No way. She's just a friend. I would never think like that."

There is a reason Mills, 23 and one year removed from his senior
season with the Wildcats, was asked by coach Tubby Smith to
volunteer as the team's chaplain. "Cameron was the spiritual
leader of this team as a player," says Smith. "I wanted him to
continue in that role."

Mills, who's finishing the final three credits toward his
psychology degree, may be the youngest chaplain in the history
of organized collegiate sports. He talks God with players over
the phone and regularly takes individual players out to lunch
for one-on-one Bible discussions. He leads the team prayer, and
four hours before each home game (and road games within driving
distance), he gives a 10-minute sermon in which he reads a
passage from the Bible and then explains how it relates to the
modern-day Kentucky athlete. When Mills rises, clears his throat
and opens the book, there is total silence. All coaches and the
13 players (including Jules Camara, a practicing Muslim) usually
attend. "There are fans who worship Kentucky basketball
players," says senior forward Scott Padgett. "Cameron has made
it clear that we should worship God like they worship us."

It is, Mills concedes, an odd arrangement. Last year at this
time, he bore witness to every "Damn!" and "Jesus Christ!"
Kentucky players uttered. "Cameron's our age, but every player
here listens to him because we know the way he lives his life,"
Padgett says. "He's not holier than thou. If you could eliminate
all the small things most of us do--telling that little white
lie, cursing--we'd be just like him. But Cameron's above all
that. He's the guy you'd want your kid to be like."

Raised in Lexington, Mills always longed to play for the
Wildcats (his father, Terry, lettered at Kentucky from 1969 to
'71), but he wasn't recruited by Rick Pitino, Kentucky's coach
in the early and mid-'90s. In '94 Mills was prepared to accept a
scholarship at Georgia, but at the last minute he decided to
walk on at Kentucky.

Through running, weight training and hours of empty-gym jump
shots, he became a player. Not a superstar. Not even a starter.
But a shooting guard who last season averaged 11.2 minutes and
4.4 points. In Kentucky's win over Utah for the NCAA title, Mills
scored eight points, including two three-pointers. "He's overcome
a lot," says Smith. "Plus, Cameron's always been genuine. I knew
the kids would listen to him because they respect him."

Mills didn't study theology. During his time at Kentucky,
however, he became known as a sort of moral authority. Churches
and civic groups brought him in to speak. His lectures, about
chastity and Christ, drew raves. Last May he took some time,
prayed about his future and made a decision: He would serve God
through outreach. In June, Cameron Mills Ministries was born. "I
love the game of basketball," says Mills, "but I love Jesus
more. My life is God."

When he is not with the team, Mills travels from town to town,
mostly throughout the Southeast, with Johnny Pittman, a Cameron
Mills Ministries road pastor, speaking in churches and schools.
Mills's salary of $24,000 is paid by his ministry, which is a
nonprofit organization. It raises money through donations,
church collections and the sale of inspirational T-shirts and
hats (as well as Mills's autobiography, A Dream Come True).
Mills and Pittman, a 26-year-old former car salesman, make an
unusual pair. Mills, as wholesome-looking as a member of The
Waltons, and Pittman, with his shaved head, goatee, silver hoop
earrings in both ears and two large tattoos, roam the highways
together in an SUV (license plate: 2JESUS). In a typical week
the two have four to six engagements. Mills is not yet a great
orator, but he's getting there. Most important, he is the real

Just ask Ashley Judd. She's the one in the pajamas.

COLOR PHOTO: BOB ROSATO "I love basketball," says Mills, "but I love Jesus more. My life is God."