ESPNChicago.com's Athlete of Week
Staying at Hales paid off for Patrick Miller, who enjoys his role as Spartans' leader
Patrick Miller considered transferring from Hales just as a few of his former teammates actually did before last season. He even picked out a probable destination -- St. Rita.
But Miller reconsidered. He realized there was a benefit in staying. He had a chance to be more than a contributor for the Spartans.
"Since they left, that meant it could be my show," Miller said. "I could control the team."
Miller stuck around and got what he wanted. On a team full of youth and inexperience, Miller emerged as the Spartans' go-to player and led them in scoring with 22 points per game. Miller was pleased with his production, but frustrated that no one else seemed to notice. Hales was suffering through its first losing season in a nearly decade, so the Spartans weren't a must-see for media and scouts.
When Miller returned this season as a senior, he was driven to change that. His two goals were to return Hales to its dominating ways and become a household name in the Illinois high school basketball community.
Last week, he accomplished both. Miller, the ESPNChicago.com Prep Athlete of the Week, earned MVP honors at the prestigious Big Dipper Holiday Tournament while leading Hales to the title.
For four consecutive games, Miller proved he was as good as anyone in the tournament. He opened his four-game string by scoring 24 points in a lopsided win over Rich Central. He followed it by putting up 35 points on Bolingbrook. In the semifinals, he had 18 points against Thornton. Finally in the championship, he had 27 points to key Hales' win over Crete-Monee.
"It was definitely a coming-out party for him," Hales coach Gary London said. "A lot of comments that I'm hearing is they didn't know about Pat. 'Where did he come from?' For a lot of people who were basketball junkies, he put himself on the map."
Miller likes the new attention.
"I've been hearing a buzz around how underrated I am," said Miller, who is averaging 27 points this season. "I knew that was a big stage. I knew I could show people how good I am.
"This year I'm so relaxed and calm. I guess I'm in a groove. This year I feel a little swag. It feels good. I feel each game I'm going to do good. I feel like every shot I'm going to take is going to go in."
That also has a lot to do with Miller spending his entire offseason in the gym. He and Jamie Adams, Hales' other starting guard, were together nearly every day in the summer working to improve their games.
Miller concentrated on improving his long-distance shot. He developed a consistent mid-range game over his first three high school seasons, but his three-point shot was erratic. Now he has added an outside game and made it difficult on opponents to contain him.
"He's really locked in on offense and running our system," London said. "He's knowing where he can score and how he can score. All around, he's playing great. One thing he's able to do now if you try to take one part of the floor away from him, he's able to attack you in a different way."
Being 5-foot-11, Miller lacks size as a scoring guard, but he has found that hard work and basketball smarts can go a long way against bigger opponents.
"If I was taller, I would be the perfect 2 [guard]," Miller said. "I am giving up a couple inches, but I have a higher IQ. I outthink people, and I'm tough."
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It was enough evidence for Division I schools to recruit him. Miller committed to Tennessee State among a few offers.
With that, Miller follows in a long line of Hales' guards to end up at Division I programs. The most notable names of late are Jerome Randle, a senior at California, and Matt Humphrey, a sophomore at Oregon.
"I've had a few guards go Division I, and he reminds of those guys because of his talent," London said. "He's different. Jerome was so lightning quick, and he developed that jump shot that made him so hard to defend. Pat has probably the best mid-range game I've had. That helps him."
Scott Powers covers high school and college sports for ESPNChicago.com and can be reached at email@example.com.
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