WKYT | Lexington, Kentucky | Sports

Cal waiting for Miller to bust out

Every so often Kentucky coach John
Calipari will stop practice after guard Darius Miller does
something spectacular.
Calipari will blow the whistle, play will stop and the coach
will turn to Miller's teammates with a pleading look. In turn the
Wildcats will yell to the talented, but inconsisent junior:
"Do that in a game!"
Miller says he's trying.
The athletic Miller has become an enigma in his two-plus seasons
on campus. Calipari believes the former Kentucky "Mr. Basketball"
has the ability to take over games.
He's just not doing it, at least, not yet.
Miller is averaging 9.9 points and 5.3 rebounds for the
17th-ranked Wildcats (6-2), who play rapidly improving Indiana
(7-1) on Saturday.
Yet Calipari says there are too many times when Miller can
disappear in plain sight. That can't happen on a team with just 10
players in uniform.
"There's something that holds him back when it's a four-point
game and he can bust open the game," Calipari said. "There's
something that makes him evaporate when we've got guys out and now
you must step up and go do something. You take over. There's
something that's holding him back."
What it is Calipari has no idea. The two have met one-on-one
recently in hopes of finding a solution. Even Miller isn't sure
what's wrong.
"I expect he wants me to be more productive on the offensive
and being more aggressive offensively and defensively," he said.
"I'm glad he has that much confidence in me, that's a help that he
has that much confidence in me. I guess I have to just step up my
production."
It's not that Miller isn't doing anything; he's just not doing
something all the time. He didn't have a rebound during the first
half of a win over Notre Dame on Wednesday, finishing with five in
37 minutes.
Calipari let Miller know that it wasn't nearly good enough. With
center Enes Kanter ruled permanently ineligible by the NCAA for
taking improper benefits while playing for a Turkish club team,
Kentucky is undersized.
Miller can play bigger than his 6-foot-7 frame. He snared a
rebound in traffic off a late free throw miss against North
Carolina, starting a break that at least let teammate Doron Lamb
get off a desperation last-second heave that fell short.
It was quintessential Miller. He went and made a play, then
deferred to a teammate. It was fine a year ago when he was
surrounded by a handful of NBA first-round picks. The Wildcats
aren't nearly as deep this season.
"The last two years he was fine just running around, it was
going to be OK," Calipari said.
It's not anymore. Calipari knows Miller can do things when the
Wildcats find themselves in a hole. He did it last season against
Tennessee in a game Kentucky lost. He did in the second half
against UConn last month, a game that turned into another loss.
Calipari would love to see that kind of tenacity when the game
is on the line. Too often Miller becomes reticent when things get
tight.
Miller is hardly the first player Calipari has coached who needs
to be coaxed out of his shell, and Calipari says the team will
continue to rely on freshmen Terrence Jones and Brandon Knight if
it has to. He'd like Miller to help carry the load.
"Whenever that tiger comes out of you and whenever you
understand it, you're going to become a totally different guy,"
Calipari said. "It's physically tough, you're going to get knocked
around."
Miller can handle the pounding. It's everything else that's
become problematic. Polite almost to a fault, he acknowledges he's
still not sure when he gets the ball in his hands whether to pass
or shoot or when to get to the glass or try and get out on the
break.
"We have a lot of talented scores and I'm still trying to
figure it out," he said.
Sooner would be preferable to Calipari, who praised the work Tom
Crean has done with the Hoosiers. Indiana has lost 13 of its last
16 in the series, but Calipari joked he might scrub the annual
meeting between the border rivals if Crean keeps landing top-notch
recruits.
Calipari wasn't kidding when he called Miller's maturation a key
to the season. His potential replacements - sophomore Jon Hood and
freshman Stacey Poole - have done little in Miller's stead. And
while Knight and Jones have hogged most of the headlines, Miller is
arguably the best all-around athlete on the team.
Calipari thinks it's time Miller starts making strides toward
becoming the best all-around player.
"We should all be seeing him saying 'Wow' and we're not,"
Calipari said.


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