It only seemed as if Terry Mills had changed his name.
As the late 1990s gave way to the 2000s, you might have thought that Mills' legal name had become Terry Mills, the father of.
That's because whenever you saw Terry Mills mentioned in Kentucky's newspapers, it was almost always in the context of:
1.) Terry Mills, the father of Cameron Mills, the University of Kentucky walk-on who became a vital contributor for UK's 1997 NCAA runners-up and the 1998 national champions;
2.) Terry Mills, the father of Collier Mills, the Transylvania University star who was named the 2001 NAIA National Player of the Year.
What got a bit lost in the focus on Terry Mills' bloodline was that he had a rather significant basketball pedigree in Kentucky all his own.
As they can attest in Knox County, Terry Mills was a centerpiece of the best two-year stretch of basketball in the history of Knox Central High School.
Meanwhile, those UK fans with a bit of gray around the temples know that Cameron Mills, with his penchant for making big shots in NCAA tourney games, was not the first member of his family to step up under tournament pressure when the Wildcats needed it most.
Today, Terry Mills is one of a select few who were both significant contributors themselves as players at UK and had sons who also played big roles in the rich narrative that is Kentucky basketball.
Which means Terry Mills can answer whether it is harder on the nerves to play basketball at Kentucky or to watch one's child play for a school where basketball means so much.
Linked with Casey
In athletics, it sometimes seems that two people become intertwined by the sports gods.
For Terry Mills, his basketball path was intricately linked with another celebrated Kentucky basketball star of the 1960s, Mike Casey.
Mills launched his basketball journey by playing as a boy against his two older brothers on a goal their father, Reed, attached to the family barn. "All we did in the summertime," Terry Mills said.
Reed Mills was a homebuilder in Knox County. His wife, Mary Ruth, worked for decades at a Barbourville bank. (At 84, she still resides in Knox County).
In Kentucky, basketball reputations tend to be first made on the big stage of the high school state tournament. Terry Mills was a junior in 1965 on the Knox Central team that made the school's first state tourney trip since 1937.
In an opening-round win over Glasgow, Mills had 25 points. In a defeat to Hazard in the quarterfinals, Mills had 18 points. The Lexington Herald reported that he "set up several baskets with steals and deft passes." Mills made the 1965 All-State Tournament Team.
"People remember me as a shooter," Terry Mills said. "But I could jump a little bit and, in high school, I was a good rebounder and was a pretty good all-around player."
The next season, the Panthers clawed their way back to the Sweet Sixteen. The (bad) luck of the draw paired them in the first round against tourney favorite Shelby County with its star guard, Casey.
"You didn't have media back then like you do now," Terry Mills said. "But we still knew everything about Mike Casey and Shelby County. They were the pick to win the tournament. They'd gotten lots of publicity all around the state."
In the showdown, Mills poured in 32 points; Casey had 20 points, 14 rebounds and six assists.
He also got what really mattered, a 71-70 Shelby County victory.
Casey and the Rockets went on to win the state title. Soon afterward, Casey was named Mr. Basketball.
Mills joined Casey on the 1966 Kentucky All-Star team that recorded a rare two-game sweep over Indiana in the summer series.
Both signed to play college hoops with Kentucky.
At UK, it would be Mike Casey's misfortune that paved the way for Terry Mills' most successful season in Blue.
'Get in, Barbourville'
In the late 1960s, Adolph Rupp's epic coaching career was in its twilight. The old coach's body was breaking down. He sometimes coached with an ailing foot propped up on a cushioned stool in front of the Kentucky bench.
"I redshirted a year," Mills said. "By the time I was playing for the varsity, there was always a big scramble during the games to sit next to Coach Rupp on the bench."
Rupp's eyesight was not what it once had been.
"If somebody messed up, he'd say, 'Who did that?'" Mills says of Rupp. "If you were sitting next to him, you could tell him it was the guy playing ahead of you. Sometimes, he would grab you and put you in."
Having coached Kentucky for almost four decades by this time, player names tended to run together for Rupp.
"He'd call you by your hometown or your high school," Mills recalls. "I was 'Barbourville,' or sometimes 'Knox Central.' He'd say, 'Get in, Barbourville.'"
The recruiting class of which Mills was a member yielded three genuine standouts: Dan Issel, Casey and Mike Pratt.
Going into their senior season of 1969-70, Kentucky backers believed the Big Three would put the burgeoning UCLA dynasty back in its place and allow UK to give Rupp one final NCAA championship.
The summer before that season, Casey was in a bad car accident. Both the tibia and fibula of his left leg were shattered. He was out for the season.
UK's championship hopes dimmed significantly. Terry Mills' chance for playing time, however, brightened.
Helping fill the scoring void left by Casey's absence, Mills had his best year at UK. He averaged nine points a game.
Even without Casey, UK took a 26-1 record into the NCAA tourney's Mideast Regional finals with Artis Gilmore and Jacksonville.
Issel and Pratt both fouled out midway through the second half. Mills rifled in 18 points before he fouled out, too. UK suffered a gut-wrenching 106-100 loss.
Afterward, the Lexington Herald noted "the shooting of Mills was one of the real bright spots. But this was to have been Kentucky's year. It just wasn't possible without Mike Casey."
The next year, Casey returned from his broken leg and reclaimed his starting job. As a result, Mills saw his playing time reduced and his scoring average (6.3) drop in his senior year.
A Kentucky hero from the 1970 NCAA tourney, Mills did not score a field goal and had only four points in UK's embarrassing 107-83 loss to Jim McDaniels and Western Kentucky in the 1971 NCAAs.
The sons rise
Cameron Mills says he was in third grade before he fully understood what it meant that his dad had played basketball at Kentucky.
He'd been given a school assignment to write a report on a hero.
Little Cam was thinking Larry Bird or Magic Johnson.
His mom, Lorri, suggested Cameron write about his father.
"She got out all his scrapbooks, the newspaper clippings," Cameron Mills said. "It was then, I guess, that I really understood that Dad had played at Kentucky and that was a pretty big deal."
In that moment, the seeds of the son's basketball ambition may have taken deep root.
Cameron Mills' UK story is well known. Sweet-shooting All-State player on back-to-back state runner-up teams at Lexington's Paul Laurence Dunbar High School. Scholarship offers from schools as large as Georgia.
No such offer from Kentucky - the one school he had his heart set on playing for.
So his dad called the one person inside Rick Pitino's UK program he knew well - Bill Keightley - and asked for a meeting.
Then-UK assistant Billy Donovan wandered in, took word back to Pitino that the younger Mills wanted to wear UK blue in the strongest way. Word came back that Cameron would be welcome to pay his own way to play.
After two years of little court time, Derek Anderson's injury gave Cameron a chance to play meaningful minutes. He became a UK folk hero during the deep NCAA tourney runs of 1997 and '98.
"It was much harder to be a UK player's father than a UK player," Terry Mills said. "As a player, you really don't have time to think about things around you. You just play.
"As a father, your child means so much to you, the games really matter to you. But you have no control at all. You just sit there. It's a great experience, but it's tough on the nerves, too."
In any inter-generational debate over who had the more significant Kentucky career, both Terry and Cameron have ammunition.
Though he played in an era of freshman ineligibility, Terry Mills had 424 career points at UK. Cameron was eligible four years, but had 365 career points.
On the other hand, Cameron Mills had a 31-point game against Florida (in a UK loss) during his senior year. He does have two national championships on his playing resume
"I think Cameron was the better shooter," Terry Mills said. "If he'd gotten to play more earlier in his career, I think he'd have outscored me."
Actually, Terry says Collier Mills might have ended up the best player in the family by the time his Transy career ended.
"He was a late bloomer, was 5-10 his freshman year at Dunbar," Terry Mills says. "By his senior year of high school, he was 6-6 but physically immature.
"Well, he was 6-8 and filled out his last two years at Transy. He could have played at a lot of high-level Division I schools by then. He just developed late."
Today, Terry Mills is active at 60. After a long career selling insurance, Mills has taken his skills in a new direction working as a salesman for a local Lexus dealership.
"It surprises me," Terry Mills says, "that even now I meet people that say, 'You were the Mills who played at UK.' It is nice at my age that some people do remember me as a player."
And not just as Terry Mills, the father of.