"Still, I think a school should be interested in getting things done. I read National Review and I think there are some good ideas in there, but I wouldn't want to be called a conservative. I don't want people to think I'm against progress. I can't see having my name associated with a place like Alabama, where they really haven't faced up to-problems, or a school like Georgia in a state where Governor Maddox actually seems to be against progress.
"I hear a lot of older people saying that students shouldn't dissent. They tell me things like: 'We never did; we respected our faculty.' Well, today we have to evaluate our own situation. Times are changing and we shouldn't simply imitate older persons on student unrest and things like that."
Even though he already realizes that pro basketball may prevent him from ever earning his M.D.—a conflict that deeply worries his cheerleading father, who is a medical man first and a basketball nut second—McMillen has decided against more schools for their weak pre-med curricula than because of their suffering basketball programs. Of the dozen or so colleges still under consideration, almost all have medical schools nearly as renowned as their basketball teams, and most of the coaches spend as much time talking up new chemistry labs as they do their latest league championship. The Ivy League is still in contention though his parents would prefer that he attend school on an athletic scholarship. Tom will most likely play in the Atlantic Coast Conference at North Carolina, Duke or Maryland.
McMillen carries his careful thought and articulation over into his school-work. He has one of the three highest academic averages in the history of Mansfield High—he received a B for one marking period in seventh-grade English but nothing lower than an A since—and will certainly become the fourth member of his family named most likely to succeed by his classmates at graduation.
The adults in Mansfield apparently think he already has. Last year the Methodist church invited him to a service to speak on his Catholic faith, and the March of Dimes named him the teenage county co-chairman. The local administrators of the Federal Government's Appalachia program asked McMillen to talk on nutrition, although his diet would hardly qualify him as an expert.
"Sometimes the adults take me too seriously," says McMillen. "My name is in the paper all the time and it makes me wonder what the other kids' parents think when their sons and daughters aren't getting any publicity. If I were them, I don't think I'd care for it."
For their part, his contemporaries are not worried in the least. Crowded around one end of a long table in the Mansfield High cafeteria, three of McMillen's best friends, Frank Rich, Ron West and Tom Cole, the little guard who is the second-best player on the basketball team, talked about McMillen.
"He's a big goof. He's so intelligent and so great at basketball, but he's simple about life. I've never met anyone so gullible," said 5'8" Rich. "Besides, when you play basketball with him, you always end up getting hit on the top of the head by his elbows."
"He's got one big fault. He never goes out with girls," said West.
"He's so straight I don't think he'd kiss a girl," added Cole.