Brandon Miller’s scholarship offer from Kentucky finally hit earlier this week.
A 6-foot-7, 200-pound versatile wing from the class of 2022, Miller is a bonafide five-star talent with a college-ready body as a junior in high school, where he plays down in Antioch, Tennessee at Cane Ridge High School. Miller was one of two five-star wings that picked up an offer from head coach John Calipari and staff throughout the week, joining Chris Livingston as the other recipient.
Since Tuesday, Kentucky has been operating on the recruiting trail with ferocity, which can be at least partially attributed to the recent additions of Orlando Antigua and Ron “Chin” Coleman–two ace recruiters who have hit the ground running since arriving in Lexington. With in-person recruiting finally rounding the corner and evaluation periods in place for June, the recruiting landscape is about to get a whole lot more competitive. Miller is clearly a player that Calipari and company believe in as a potential Wildcat, something Miller’s father reassured with KSR on Thursday.
Miller has been in contact with the Kentucky staff for a while now and he hears from Coach Coleman on a daily basis. The familiarity is already there despite such a quick turnaround for Coleman and Coach Antigua, aided by the relationship they had with Miller when the two were coaching at Illinois the last few seasons. The mutual interest is clearly there. But what about Miller’s on-court game makes him such a tantalizing prospect for the ‘Cats?
Miller’s high school head coach at Cane Ridge, Marlin Simms, spoke with KSR on Friday to help break down some of the skills that Miller brings to the hardwood. From the jump, Coach Simms praised Miller’s basketball IQ as his best attribute right now.
“His basketball IQ, his ability to understand the game of basketball, and to be able to make every play at the high school level,” Simms told KSR about Miller.
Having a solid understanding of the game is more important than it might sound on the surface. But Miller’s abilities extend beyond that simple notion. Knowing how to play the game means nothing if you can’t actually play the game. With Miller’s frame and athleticism complemented by a budding offensive skill set, he covers plenty of bases. Simms says he believes Miller can play the two-through-four positions, even acting as a wing player who can run point if necessary.
“I don’t think people think he’s athletic as he is until you actually see,” Simms said regarding what stands out about Miller. “Then his skill follows that part up along with his basketball IQ. His competitive nature, we could sit here and talk about this stuff all day, but his competitive nature and the fact that he accepts every challenge put in front of him. He tries to rise to the challenge, he really wants to defend, he really wants to do those things to win. And winning means the most to him, how competitive he is. Does he start off on the other team’s best player? No, but if that’s the challenge, at some point in the game that’s what he’ll want to do. He’ll come up to me during a timeout and say ‘Coach I got him.’ You never have to sell him on that part. His teammates also understand that he’s really competitive.”
Simms has coached Miller since the latter entered high school as a freshman, but he knew of Miller even before then.
Miller first caught the eye of Simms when he was in eighth grade and he asked Simms to come and watch one of his middle school games, something Simms admits he doesn’t do all that often. But Simms went, and from that moment on, knew he needed Miller on his team.
“I saw something special inside of him,” Coach Simms said about the first time watching Miller play basketball. “I knew if he got a little taller, little stronger, what he could be. And the kid really works. Through this COVID time–some kids think that COVID hurt but I think for Brandon it really helped. Brandon’s opportunity to get into the gym and not be in a school building all day, actually getting into a gym throughout the day. Actually getting to work on his game. I thought he fell in love with the game of basketball during COVID time. When people start taking things away from you, you start to miss it. He really just fell in love with the game of basketball. He fell in love with the process of getting better over the summer this past year.”
And Miller sure did improve, too. While his ranking by recruiting services mostly hovered around the 10-15 mark, he became a much better shooter this past season, connecting on 47 percent from beyond the arc as a high school junior. He was actually shooting 50 percent from distance, according to Coach Simms, before Cane Ridge made its run to the Class AAA Tennessee Boy’s State Championship Game and Miller was met with consistent double- and triple-teams.
Cane Ridge, which only played 13 regular-season games, going a perfect 13-0, beat a 30-3 Bearden squad in the opening round of the tournament, 50-47, before taking down Collierville in the next round by a final score of 55-48. Miller went for 21 points on 6-9 shooting (9-10 from the free-throw line), seven rebounds, three assists, three blocks, and three steals against Bearden then dropped 23 points, 14 rebounds, three assists, three blocks, and three steals in the next game against Collierville.
Unfortunately, Miller struggled against a 20-3 Houston High School team that was loaded with Divison I talent across its roster. Miller contributed 11 points, eight rebounds, and three assists on a 4-12 shooting clip in a 62-43 loss. But most of Houston’s top players were set to graduate after this past season while Miller will suit up once again in the fall. His goals are not just to win the state title, but also Mr. Basketball and Gatorade Player of the Year.
“Brandon is all about winning, he’s all about team,” Simms added. “His family is really supportive of us here at Cane Ridge High School. We’ve tried to be supportive of them. They believe in what we’re doing. Everything is a conversation. It’s not always about Brandon, it’s about the team.”
Kentucky fans will actually have the opportunity to watch Miller play in person if they’re willing to make the drive to the western portion of the state for December’s 2021 Marshall County Hoopfest, where Cane Ridge will compete. With the evaluation period about to kick off in June, stay tuned for more Kentucky involvement with Miller.