COLUMN: Miller doesn’t need to find stardom, only consistency


Junior guard Darius Miller. Photo by Britney McIntosh

Following a long and arduous search, Darius Miller was finally found in South Carolina on Saturday.

For a player that has been accused by UK men’s basketball head coach John Calipari of completely disappearing from games not only this season, but also last season, Miller’s 18 points against the Gamecocks—two shy of matching a career high—could be the breakthrough Calipari had wanted to see from Miller.

“I hope so,” Miller said with a chuckle. “My teammates did a great job of providing opportunities for me and I just tried to be aggressive and take them.”

Miller, the quintessential team player, attributed several of his open looks as a result of South Carolina defenders playing help defense in an attempt to stop freshmen guards Brandon Knight and Doron Lamb.

Herein lays the problem with the former Mr. Kentucky Basketball: He’s not lacking the skill set of a star player, but the consistent assertive attitude. With another group of superstar freshmen playing alongside him this year, the trap of shirking responsibility is an easy one to fall into.

But that’s OK; In many ways, it’s refreshing that Miller is not a me-first player because that would be equally detrimental to the team as when he’s virtually disappeared from the court.

Calipari has repeatedly voiced his frustrations about Miller in the hopes of sparking him to blossom into a go-to guy under his tutelage, and although it was only for one game, Miller finally showed that he is capable of playing to the expectations of his coach.

“(Miller) was aggressive, that’s all I’m asking him to do,” Calipari said. “He had four turnovers and about three balls jerked out of his hand, at the end of the day, I want everything; I want him to grab all those balls, be tough with it so he doesn’t turn it over and play aggressive and the reason is that I think he’s that good.

“Today he looked like one of the best players in our league, would you not say?”

If Miller continually provides the kind of performance he did on Saturday that would be gravy for the Cats because opposing teams would be hard-pressed to stop the trio of Knight, Lamb and Terrence Jones in addition to Miller, who when he plays like he did, Jones said “is the best player in our league at his position.”

A more realistic scenario would be for Miller to find a happy medium: play somewhere in the middle between near-perfection and a nightmarish-absence.

Reaching stardom in his remaining time at UK isn’t a necessary goal for Miller to accomplish, especially given the talented crop of freshmen Calipari will bring in again next year. Instead, Miller finding consistency will suffice because he also brings poise and leadership, qualities that sometimes appear non-existent in the star freshmen.

Late in Saturday’s game, it was Miller instructing teammates to get in place to rebound a free throw in the midst of the Gamecocks’ furious comeback attempt, not the headline-grabbing Jones or Knight.

“The reason I was still coaching and getting on guys is because they didn’t understand that we could lose the game. They’re not veteran enough,” Calipari said.

Miller may not always be aggressive enough, but he is veteran enough. It’s for this reason that he realized a meeting among the upperclassmen to avoid three straight road losses in conference play.

Still, the bigger realization may yet be the untapped potential Miller has been trying to harness for what seems like forever and may have, at long last, found.