Ben Mills has had the best seat in the house for some of the greatest moments in Colorado basketball history.

The seldom-used but wildly popular 7-foot center has experienced the NIT at Madison Square Garden, winning the Pac-12 Tournament at Staples Center, and upsetting UNLV in the NCAA Tournament at the Pit.

Mostly from the end of the bench or during the postgame celebrations.

But when 10th-seeded CU takes on No. 7 Illinois on Friday in the East Region bracket in Austin, Texas, there is a chance Mills will be called on to play some meaningful minutes on college basketball's greatest stage.

Shane Harris-Tunks who usually relieves starting big man Josh Scott, suffered a concussion a week ago against Arizona. The 6-11 junior has not yet been cleared to play in the Buffs' NCAA Tournament game.

"Any experience is helpful. If Shane isn't ready to go, I certainly will be," Mills said after Tuesday's practice. "And look forward to doing it.

The C-Unit chants often chants his name at the Coors Events Center, but Mills' two biggest fans are head coach Tad Boyle and star forward Andre Roberson.

"I'm not sure I've ever been more proud of a young man and how he has handled not playing," Boyle said of Mills, who has logged a total of 23 minutes this season. "How he's handled coming here on scholarship, being recruited, and not having maybe the basketball part of his experience work out at Colorado like he expected it to work out, or how we expected as coaches for it to work out.

"The way he has handled that tells me that Ben Mills is going to be successful with whatever he decides to do."

When Harris-Tunks was injured during the first half of the Pac-12 Tournament quarterfinal game against Arizona in Las Vegas, Mills gave CU five inspiring minutes.

Mills -- who had only been on the floor for a total of three minutes during the conference's regular season -- grabbed two rebounds, drew a foul and made a free throw in the intense grudge match with the physical Wildcats.

"That's one thing about Ben I respect. He's a great guy and he does what's best for this team, not just individually," Roberson said. "I tip my hat to him for that. And when it's time to shine, like against Arizona, he showed what he can do. He did a great job for us."

Shortly after taking the CU job in April 2010, Boyle was able to recruit both Roberson and Mills during the late signing period in May.

Roberson, the Pac-12 defensive player of the year, is averaging 11.3 rebounds per game (second nationally) while Mills has 12 rebounds all season.

Their statistics might be in stark contrast, but the old freshmen roommates are very close off the court.

"They've kind of grown up together at Colorado," Boyle said. "It's pretty special."

Mills' offensive highlights this season were on Jan. 24 when he made field goals in the final minute against Stanford.

After the victory, the Buffs knew what was coming in the locker room.

"He's a big-time Taylor Swift guy," Roberson said with a laugh.

In addition to having an eclectic taste with his postgame music selections, Mills is also the reluctant star of CU's version of the "Harlem Shake" video.

No matter how long CU's run in this NCAA Tournament last's, The Mills Shake will live on as its own shining moment on Youtube.

"I had no idea I was going to be doing that. It was just after practice one day they told me I was going to be the center of the Mills Shake thing," Mills said. "So I wasn't prepared for that at all. I was a little ashamed of my performance."

Ironically, Mills is partially responsible for the significant upgrade in talent on the roster that keeps him on the pine.

"When we have recruiting visits and kids visit our campus and I ask them at the end of the visit who resonated with them on the team, Ben's name comes up a lot," Boyle said. "He's a very outgoing, fun guy to be around. Great teammate. You can see that when the students react to him when he comes in the game.

"People love Ben Mills, and his coach feels the same way."

Boyle said the coaching staff was not in a position to redshirt Mills as a freshman after Harris-Tunks went down with a torn ACL in the first practice. Mills played in 19 games during the 2010-11 season, including three Big 12 games, averaging 1.4 points and 1.2 rebounds.

Cracking the lineup has been even more difficult on CU's first back-to-back NCAA Tournament teams in 50 years. Mills appeared in seven games as a sophomore and seven more this season.

"I think each year I've improved a bunch," Mills said. "From now to my freshman year I'm a completely different player in every aspect of the game."

Mills has added 30 pounds to his frame since high school and gets better every day in practice going against skilled big men like Scott and Wesley Gordon.

And sometimes the big man on campus takes the road less traveled in his development.

"I'm not giving up on Ben Mills now," Boyle said. "He's going to be a senior next year and the way he played against Arizona when Shane went out with his concussion, the way he has played every time we've given him an opportunity to get on the floor this year, that says a lot about his being ready when his number is called. That's not an easy thing to do."

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The Mills Shake

Name: Ben Mills

Year, position: Junior, center

Height: 7-foot

Wing span: 6-8 3/4

Weight: 225 pounds

Season highs: Eight minutes and five rebounds (Dec. 21, 2012, Northern Arizona), four points (Jan. 24, 2013, Stanford)

Career highs: Nine minutes and two blocks (Feb. 12, 2011, Kansas State, six points (Dec. 17, 2010, The Citadel), five rebounds (Dec. 21, 2012, Northern Arizona)

Personal: Born March 30, 1992. Father Patrick played basketball at St. Mary's and twin sisters (Amanda, East Carolina; Meghan, Mercer) also played college basketball. Averaged 17.1 points and 11.2 rebounds to lead Arrowhead High School (Hartland, Wis.) to WIAA Division 1 state championship as a senior.