Meet Miro Little, a top-rated international Baylor recruit for the Sunrise basketball team

Taylor Eldridge/The Wichita Eagle

One of the top international basketball prospects in the class of 2023 with NBA aspirations will be playing at Koch Arena this week.

Finland native Miro Little, a 6-foot-4 guard signed to Baylor, has opted to play college basketball and is spending the year preparing at Sunrise Christian Academy, the nationally-ranked prep program who will be hosting the Air Capitol Hoopfest this week in Wichita.

Sunrise will play three games at Koch Arena in three straight days, starting with Thursday’s 5:30 p.m. showdown with Oak Hill Academy, followed by the return of Shocker legend P.J. Couisnard, who coaches Legacy Prep, at 8 p.m. Friday and then a game against Bishop Walsh at 6 p.m. Saturday. All-session tickets are $35 for adults and $15 for youth, and single-session tickets start at $15 for adults and $8 for youth and can be purchased on GoShockers.com.

Little, who is ranked as the No. 25 prospect in his class, will be one of the many future college stars who will be signing autographs after games. Sunrise also features highly-touted prospects in Matas Buzelis (NBA G-League), Layden Blocker (Arkansas), John Bol (undecided) and Scotty Middleton (Ohio State).

“The best thing about Miro is that he’s ready for the athleticism in our game and sometimes that takes time for European players, but he’s walking in the door physically ready,” Sunrise coach Luke Barnwell said. “He’s a big, strong guard who competed in the EuroBasket championship with Finland at just 17 years old. So he’s battle-tested and he knows how to play the game. We’re happy that he’s here.”

Little’s recruiting exploded following last summer’s U18 Nordic Championship, where he averaged 17.8 points, 7.3 rebounds and 4.8 assists. He also became the youngest player to represent his country on the senior national team in 25 years this past summer. Little averaged 21.6 points, 9.0 rebounds and 5.8 assists while shooting 39.4% on three-pointers at the Helsinki Basketball Academy in Finland’s second-tier professional league, which surpassed the production of even Lauri Markkanen, who eventually became a top-10 NBA draft pick.

Because his father is from Brooklyn, N.Y., Little said he wanted to play at least one season of college basketball in America. Living in Bel Aire was a bit of a culture shock, but the transition was smoothed because Little had visited the United States every summer growing up.

“I’m excited to play at Sunrise because it is a really good basketball program and they’ve had a lot of European players come through,” Little said. “They have a great coaching staff and coach Luke does such a good job communicating and holding everybody accountable on the team.”

The connection to Sunrise was forged when Barnwell saw the highly-touted Finnish prospect was visiting three colleges — Baylor, Indiana and Villanova — this past January.

“We reached out and said, ‘Hey, if you’re going to come to college, then we strongly suggest coming to do a year here before college because the transition will be so much better for you,’” Barnwell said. “We’re thankful he felt like Sunrise was the right place for him.”

As his stats suggest, Little is a do-everything guard with good size who projects to be a creator at the next level.

He said he was attracted to Baylor because of its recent pipeline of success with international players, which includes Jeremy Sochan (Poland), Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua (Cameroon), Flo Thamba (Congo) and Joshua Ojianwuna (Nigeria).

“I really like how so many Europeans have been there,” Little said. “European basketball players want to go there because they have that track record of success. And I just loved how the entire coaching staff really had a positive mindset. The culture down there is just amazing.”

After being the star player back home in Finland, Little said he is enjoying the competition level every day in practice at Sunrise, which has a collection of four- and five-star prospects, plus the nationally-competitive schedule the team plays.

“There’s a lot of competition every single day here and I like it,” Little said. “Of course our goal is to win it all this year. We’re looking forward to that national championship. But until then, we’re just trying to get better every time we step on the floor.”