Lost during ElbowGate Saturday was a comment from Coach Cal in his press conference in which he said that a couple guys on the team “get rattled”. He went on to say he tried several different lineup combinations, but players “kept breaking down”. Now he didn’t name names, but all you have to do is look at the box score and you’ll have a pretty good idea who he was talking about. Despite starting the game (and starting every game so far this season), Darius Miller only played 8 minutes, attempted one shot and had three fouls.
So what’s going on with Darius? He’s driven UK fans crazy since arriving in Lexington with his obvious talent but a penchant for disappearing in games, particularly important ones. I think most casual observers would agree that Miller’s biggest hurdle is becoming a more confident player. There are times when he plays absolutely stifling defense, hits his patented runner in the lane and generally has body language that says he feels comfortable. But other times it seems he doesn’t look for his shot and spends most of the game deferring to his teammates. Obviously, when you have teammates like he does, it becomes very easy to defer. But Darius must realize his play is a key to UK’s success.
What I’ve been most impressed with this season is Miller’s ability to hit the open three. He is currently shooting the three-ball at a nearly 43% clip, compared to last season’s 32%. But sometimes he seems too content in just patrolling the perimeter. He’s like a player that’s desperately searching for an identity but isn’t having any luck. Is he a spot-up shooter? Probably not. Is he a slasher? Not really. Lockdown defender? Could Darius’s problem be that he’s good enough from most positions on the floor but isn’t great at any?
Darius’s minutes have been shrinking, too. Over the first 7 games of the season, he was averaging 28 minutes a game, but in the last 8 that number has slipped to 22 mpg. Only Boogie plays less minutes on average, but that can be accounted for by the fact he leads the team in fouls per game. So what can/should we make of Darius? I love his game and belive he can be a true X-Factor during conference play, but his confidence has to rise to match his abilities. Easier said than done, I know. But we’re all pulling for him and really want to see our former Mr. Basketball succeed. And maybe in the end, we should all just realize he’s still a sophomore and still has lots of growing to do. But one thing is for sure- if our biggest problem is the sometimes inconsistent play of our 5th option on offense, I’d say we’re in a good spot. Go Cats!