No Great Wall, but plenty of basketball in China for Miller



Darius Miller didn’t get to see the Great Wall of China (no time, and it was five hours away), couldn’t drink the water in his room (under directions not to, although not sure why), had no comment on the food (later, he just said it was “different”) and couldn’t use his cell phone (“That hurt pretty bad”) from his trip to China with the U.S. team for the World University Games.

It was an experience.

“I’m from a small town, so we didn’t have many high-level experiences like that. I never dreamed I would be in the situations I’ve been in these past couple years.”

Miller still learned a lot about basketball — and life — in the eight-game trip.

“I feel like I got an early start to the season,” Miller said. “Practicing against those guys, they are some of the best college players in the country. Practicing against them every day, maybe I can take something from their games.”

Miller averaged 5.6 points per game and 3.6 rebounds per game for the U.S. team.

“I’m happy with the way I played,” Miller said. “I played all right. I felt I could have played better, but that’s always the case.”

He played at both forward positions and learned the games and personalities of his teammates. Miller said he exchanged numbers with every teammate.

More importantly to him, he was able to play basketball with rules and regulations.

“Pickup games are not really real basketball,” Miller said of how playing for the U.S. was different than playing with UK teammates. “It’s more of a show, going through the motions. When you play against competitions, where it actually means something to the people playing for a gold medal, it really helps. Nobody plays defense in the pickup games. So it’s more realistic than pickup games, so it gets you prepared for the season, for how basketball will really be.”

Although there were some differences between international basketball and college basketball. In the tournament, some of the foul calls and traveling rules (you can’t catch and step, you have to catch, dribble and step) mystified the U.S. team.

“We got some traveling calls that we didn’t have any idea what he did,” Miller said. “And I could see a lot of our guys getting frustrated with the foul calls. They call the game a lot different than over here. They don’t really call fouls. It seemed like we were playing without them.”

The U.S. team also ended up playing without the chance to win a medal. After losing in the quarterfinals, the team finished fifth, the first time it had not won a medal in the history of the World University Games.

“Very disappointed,” Miller said of not winning a medal. “We felt like we had the best team there. We should have won.”

Now, Miller is back and ready for his senior season. He’s already thinking about how he can approach being a leader differently this season.

“I know how intense it’s going to be. I know what it takes for us to be a really successful team. I have to instill that in the team in the early goings, which I don’t think I did very well last year,” Miller said. “I don’t think we worked as hard as we should have at the beginning of the season. Not saying we didn’t work hard, but it takes a lot to get where we got last year. We didn’t do a good job of leading by example — the older guys, anyway. We need to do more of that.”

To read full quotes from Miller, go here.