Friday, February 6, 2015

Matt Miller's scorching of the nets looks familiar to me!

Keeping a regularly updated blog about my favorite Augusta basketball stories is a little more challenging than I thought.  I have so many favorites!  Three months into my latest attempt (this was my first), I've found myself to be capable of keeping pretty pretty good tabs on the high school hoops scene, particularly the happenings of the area's premiere region.  And even if I don't provide the most complete analysis of every corner of the high school game, I am happy that through the weekly release of "Region Race" episodes, I have also hit the high points of the most interesting action involving teams of note in other regions (Harlem, Grovetown, Aquinas, Augusta Christian, and Alleluia).

The area I've fallen short of blanketing is that involving the college basketball action of greatest interest to me.  I hoped to closely follow throughout the season five main stories:

1)  GRU Augusta
2)  Rod Hall and the Clemson Tigers
3)  Matt Miller and the United States Merchant Marines Academy
4)  Frank Booker and the Oklahoma Sooners
5)  Ahmed Hill (Virginia Tech) and Marcus Stroman (South Carolina)

After a fast start, these posts, with the exception of the GRU Jaguars, have been pretty much nonexistent since December.  Why?  I suppose because I made a new year's resolution to release "Region Race" episodes every Thursday and keeping this commitment has put me in high school gyms most Tuesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays.  After recording and writing and making videos about that action, I haven't made the time for seeing, let alone writing about my favorite college stories.

So I can either give up  this part of what I set out to do or make a "new month's resolution" on this fifth day of February to work smarter and start consistently following and sharing my thoughts concerning these stories before the hoops season escapes me.

I'll start with this post (and the above video), mostly about former Augusta/GAIS Eagle Matt Miller, the player of mine who has impressed me more than any other during my 20 years of coaching.

Matt Miller is the Landmark
Conference's 6th leading scorer
Matt was recently named the Landmark Conference Player of the Week.  And the video above shows Matt in his first game after being recognized.  It was probably his best game yet as a college player.  The video speaks for itself and I'll get to his recent honor in a moment, but first I'd like to share one of the many stories I have about Matt that will hopefully provide some background and help you appreciate him at least partly as much as I do.

Matt told me soon after I became his coach in the summer before his freshman year in high school he wanted to be an engineer.  He had already earned his high school algebra and geometry credits, and it was clear he would soon know more high level math than I ever will.  So it shouldn't be a surprise that years later, as he was weighing his college options that he would easily recognize that 3 is greater than 2.  Stay with me.

After scoring more than 3,000 career high school points Matt had proven to anyone with an open mind and common basketball sense that he was a legitimate member of an exclusive club:  that consisting of guys good enough to earn a division 1 or 2 full basketball scholarship.  Matt had narrowed his options to two scholarship opportunities at nationally competitive division 2 colleges and an appointment at the United States Merchant Marines Academy (USMMA), an engineering school for serious students with lofty career goals and the discipline needed to succeed in a highly competitive academic environment.  USMMA also fields a division 3 basketball team whose coach was smitten with Matt.  (He was also very persuasive.  I remember him telling Matt the following:  "If you can go to Harvard or Duke, go!  But don't go to some nondescript school and miss this career opportunity because people think division 2 is better than 3 or division 1 is better than 2."  That coach is no longer at USMMA, but I am grateful for the role he has played in Matt's life.)

So Matt chose to prioritize his academic and professional goals and reported to Kings Point, New York.  Two years later, he has met each challenge with class, composure, and grit.  His being named the Landmark Conference Player of the Week is the proximate cause of my getting into gear and committing to posting more about college hoops action.  With all that is so impressive about Matt, I hope to share more over time.  His example can be very instructive for young people who love and excel playing the game while also keeping it in its proper place within a larger life plan.

But now I'll detail his latest basketball exploits.  After starting half the games and scoring just under 10 points per game during his freshman season, Matt has become a team leader as a sophomore.  He and junior David Smith average 16 points each and are both among the top ten leading scorers in the conference.  Matt's shooting percentages are impressive (83% FT, 45% FG, and 38% 3 pt FG), especially after considering the perimeter nature of his game.  He has scored 20 or more points in four of the last five games.  And as you can see in the video above, Smith and he put on an offensive clinic Wednesday, combining to score 56 (27 for Matt and 29 for David) points in a 90-88 win over Drew.  The win was the Mariners' third straight.

I was thrilled to see signs early this season that Matt had found a "good fit" with his college basketball situation.  Months later it is obvious I even underestimated how well Matt would do.  His wise college choice, which was obviously far more sophisticated than the "3 is greater than 2" math I joked about above, will benefit him the rest of his life.  And it is playing a big part in his enjoyment of the present.  Part of Matt's brilliance has always been that he knows basketball is a game meant to be played for fun.  So it is no surprise he is playing like he is having a blast!

***Here are some posts from the past about Matt Miller***

Dec 10, 2014
Jan 7, 2014

Nov 21, 2013

Sept 16, 2013

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