LEWISTON, ID– AJ Miles was a standout basketball player at Pullman High School.
You know, we probably talk about AJ weekly at Pullman high school, and the kind of player and leader he was,” said Pullman Head Coach Craig Brantner.
"He was a magnetic person, he had friends from all walks of life and regions, so spreading positive energy on and off the court,” said AJ’s sister Celilo Miles.
This year marks the second AJ Miles Memorial Tournament. It’s a basketball event that his sisters will hold every year in order to honor his life and love for the game, as well as his teammates.
"He loved playing it, but he also loved to watch other great players on the court as well,” said AJ’s sister Selina Miles. “AJ was such a giving person, and he could always point out someone’s positives over their negatives. He loved to crack jokes, but this tournament is to honor his life.”
But as much of a light that AJ Miles was, his sisters tell me he also struggled with mental health issues. He passed away in 2019 from Fentanyl. The Miles family is speaking out to create awareness on the importance of reaching out for help.
“Our brother died at 23,” Miles said. “ I think no matter how old you are, whether you’re in your young twenties or teen years, you need to reach out for help if you’re struggling with any stuff going on inside. You just need to talk to anyone, and there should not be no more stigma against mental health anymore.”
"In order to move forward, you have to get passed those little speed bumps. I think just being open with yourself and others so that you can get the help that’s needed. The communities need it right now with fentanyl going around."
And with the AJ Miles Tournament, fans both young and old turned out to honor him. Coach Craig Brantner says to this day, he still has his players watch AJ’s film to learn from him.
“He meant a lot to our program and we used examples of what he did on the floor and how he was always a mentor to our younger players."