Darius Miller Enjoying The Ride
June 18, 2009 - Colorado Springs, Colo.
|Photo: Steve Maikoski / USA Basketball|
Even after Darius Miller and the University of Kentucky ended the season with a loss to Notre Dame in the quarterfinals of the NIT several months ago, Miller probably didn't expect an offseason so full of change. The 6-7 forward has a new coach in John Calipari and a new offense to learn waiting for him in Lexington, but right now he is one of 17 athletes trying to make the 12-member Men's U19 World Championship Team.
Miller, who was born in Maysville, Ky., a small town on the Kentucky-Ohio border, is relishing an opportunity that not many are rewarded with. He will have a lot to learn when he gets back to Lexington, but right now his focus is solely on USA Basketball.
-This is just a great opportunity," Miller said. -Not a lot of people get invited to this. I'm just honored to be here playing against great competition with all the great coaches. I'm really just happy to be here."
At Kentucky, Miller will not only have to learn to play in a different style of offense, but also mesh with an incoming freshman class that has been ranked by many as the best in the country. It is a challenge that Miller said he is looking forward to. For the past few years, there hasn't been the normal excitement surrounding the Kentucky program, and Miller is happy to have those high expectations back.
-It feels really good, I'm just happy to be a part of it," said Miller. -I think we're going to have a real good team, and it seems like everyone else thinks that too."
Miller grew up watching Kentucky in the mid-90's when they consistently had dominant teams. The Wildcats advanced to the NCAA Championship game three straight times from 1996-98, and Miller said he has always expected this kind of hype surrounding the team.
-I definitely expected this, especially watching them when I was younger," said Miller. -I always saw them as the top program in the nation."
The opportunity to play for Calipari next season has Miller excited about the potential for himself and his team. Calipari has grown a reputation around college basketball of being a -players coach" - one who lets his team play unrestricted to maximize their abilities.
-I think he can make me better as a player," said Miller. -We're going to have a great team, so we'll be able to compete with a lot of good teams next year. Hopefully we'll also be able to compete in the (NCAA) tournament. We haven't done a lot with the offense, but really it just seems like he lets you play. He lets you play to your strengths and I don't know what kind of player wouldn't like that. It seems like it's going to be a lot of fun, and he has a great personality."
Before he gets to that, Miller has his mind set on representing his country and playing for a gold medal in New Zealand in July. He faces stiff competition this week from some of the most talented players in his age group in the country, but Miller is taking it one step at a time, hoping to improve each practice and learn as much as he can.
-I'm just trying to get better," said Miller. -I'm just trying to listen to (the coaches and selection committee). They have been teaching us a lot, so I'm just trying to listen to them and get better as a player and do what they ask me to do. It's a great honor to play for the USA, and I'm honored just to be invited out here. I'm just taking it all in and it is a great experience."
Growing up in Kentucky, a state with a rich tradition in basketball, Miller always hoped to play the game at an elite level. Playing for the USA, however, is something he never imagined would be possible.-I never thought about playing for the USA," said Miller. -I was kind of surprised at first (of my selection). It really hit me when I got here. Just playing here, I'm so happy because I never thought I would be a part of it."