Mike Strange: Ole Miss impressed with Vols' Dwight Miller

Mike Strange
Tennessee forward Dwight Miller (25) puts up a shot during the first half against Ole Miss at Thompson-Boling Arena Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2012.  (ADAM BRIMER/NEWS SENTINEL)

Photo by Adam Brimer, copyright © 2012

Tennessee forward Dwight Miller (25) puts up a shot during the first half against Ole Miss at Thompson-Boling Arena Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2012. (ADAM BRIMER/NEWS SENTINEL)

"Are you kidding me?''

That was Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy talking Wednesday night.

He wasn't referring to the fact that Ole Miss jumped to a 15-2 lead over Tennessee before an increasingly restless Thompson-Boling Arena crowd.

He wasn't alluding to the fact that the Vols came back and won going away, 73-60.

Nor was he thinking about the fact that Tennessee, the preseason pick to finish either 11th or 12th in the SEC, walked off the court temporarily in sole possession of fourth place.

No, Kennedy was looking at Dwight Miller's line in the Tennessee box score: 10 points, seven rebounds, two 3-point baskets, all in 16 inspired minutes.

Most nights Miller doesn't even have a line in the UT box score. He hasn't shed his warm-up suit in 10 of the past 15 games.

"Honestly,'' said Miller, "it's the toughest thing I've had to go through in my life.

"You play the game because you love it. You don't want to sit out, especially when your team loses and you say there is something I could have done to help us win.''

Early on Wednesday night, Miller's team was in fact on its way to losing. Ole Miss hit seven of its first eight shots against a UT squad that could best be described as somnambulant.

Miller, a 6-foot-8 junior-college transfer who has scored one basket in SEC play, was sent to the scorer's table with 13:12 on the first-half clock.

There was indeed something he could do to help his team win.

"This guy, Dwight Miller, he wasn't one of the first two or three names we had talked about,'' said Kennedy. "But every team has one and he stepped up.

"Are you kidding me? Ten points and seven rebounds, came out and hit two threes. I thought he settled them in and made some big shots.''

Made some big shots. Grabbed some big rebounds. Blocked a big shot. Inspired his team with some big hustle.

And Tennessee fought its way back to another win it had to have to entertain any kind of postseason hopes, even the NIT.

It's not the first time Cuonzo Martin has reached into his bench and surprised an opponent with a weapon that wasn't featured in the scouting report.

He had even reached into his bench and found Miller once before. The native of the Bahamas went off for 13 points in the first half of what would be a loss at College of Charleston in mid-December. Since then Miller had played 18 minutes spread over five games.

Martin, in his own postgame comments, first referred to Miller as "Dwight Howard.'' Catching his slip of the tongue, Martin smiled and said, "I wish it was Dwight Howard.''

Dwight Miller was plenty this night.

He was the final player signed to Martin's first recruiting class. After starting his career at Pittsburgh, Miller moved on to Midland Junior College in Texas in hopes of finding a more meaningful role for himself.

"Coach saw something in me,'' Miller said. "He wants me to be the best player I can be. He felt I wasn't being that player.''

Miller played in UT's first 12 games, then retreated to the shadows, partly due to the arrival of Jarnell Stokes.

"The whole time,'' Miller said, "I tried to tell myself it's gonna get better. I've got to keep working hard.

"It sounds like a cliché, but if you keep hanging in there really hard sometimes good things happen for you.''

Miller said Martin was fair about communicating the reasons he wasn't playing. Sometimes it was subtle, sometimes not.

Miller wasn't subtle when his chance came against Ole Miss He pounced on it. It's hard to say who was happier, him or his teammates.

"He's a good guy,'' said Cameron Tatum. "He's cheering us on when he's not playing.

"That's why the guys are so happy for him, 'cause he never brought a negative buzz around the team at all.''

When Miller was done Wednesday night, the only negative buzz was in the Ole Miss locker room.

A bunch of guys going: Are you kidding me?

''Mike Strange may be reached at strangem@knoxnews.com. Follow him at http://twitter.com/strangemike44 and http://blogs.knoxnews.com/strange.

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Comments » 41

Pullingguard writes:

The question is....Why has Martin not been playing him more.. Sure could have used him verses Bama, could not have done worse than some who got extended minutes...

tree_em_smokey writes:

Congrats Miller! Finish strong Vols! GBO!!!

miatatom writes:

Great game, Dwight! GO VOLS!!!!!

richvol writes:

This is the age old story...kid works his rear off gets in the game and goes off. Miller showed what he's capable of. Let's see if he can do it consistantly.

TK writes:

Millersanity????

BruisedOrange writes:

in response to TK:

Millersanity????

And his highlight reel... Miller 'lights?

wigmeister writes:

Hope he gets more opportunity to play!

underthehill writes:

in response to Pullingguard:

The question is....Why has Martin not been playing him more.. Sure could have used him verses Bama, could not have done worse than some who got extended minutes...

No question Miller has the skills on offense to play more but I think it was his play on defense that held him back. On the other hand..Richardson does not shoot the ball well but he is the best defensive player on the team and Martin had to get him in to stop Ole Miss early..we have a tough matchup on defense when Golden and McBee are on the floor at the same time..that's why Ole Miss got off to the good start..Ole Miss isolated them and took them one on one for easy shots. It seems to me this team is playing as hard as they can (especially Maymon) to get the NIT bid and I sure hope they make it....

devo-evol writes:

This team has played hard but it seems if there is not orange paint on the floor they can't hit a shot. The only road game they won? At Florida that has orange as a color. I have never seen a team shoot so consistantly poorly on the road and shoot well at home. The 3-point shot percentage on the road in the SEC has got to be in the 20's.

devo-evol writes:

low 20's

VOLHEAD writes:

Just take it one game at a time. It's theirs to lose. No lead is safe. They can smell blood in the water. They can't afford to get lackadaisical. They’re off to the races now. They've answered the call. They're hitting on all cylinders. This team is running like a well-oiled machine. The fat lady is picking out her dress.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to Pullingguard:

The question is....Why has Martin not been playing him more.. Sure could have used him verses Bama, could not have done worse than some who got extended minutes...

That's a fairly easy thing to say, and I'm not saying you are wrong, but the main things wrong with this team are on the perimeter more than on the posts. The all-too-common bad shooting and, less often, bad shot selection and poor passing have crippled the team more than anything the posts have or have not been doing.

Miller's outside shooting offers a dimension only Woolridge can supply among the big men, but the subtext of the article was that Miller may not have been working as hard in practice as Martin prefers. Like Woolridge, he might have defensive or concentration deficiencies. No question the Vols could use a lot more of the Miller we saw last night.

Rueful confession: I didn't see most of his heroics because for some reason I thought the game started at 8:00 PM, so I didn't log on to ESPN3 until then, just after the start of the second half.

SouthPaVol writes:

Miller squared up and hit two 3's right off the bat. Later on, he came down court and heaved an off-balance shot toward the rafters, and got pulled immediately. He looked good on those two he hit though, so maybe his lack of minutes previously has been shot selection. Miller is athletic and can really help us down the stretch.

Gotta give cudos to CCM for adjusting the lineup, getting us better match ups. TG and SM sat out quite a bit, but both were struggling to keep up with their man on defense. Bottom line, CCM saw our mis-matches in the game last night quickly and made correct adjustments. Gotta love in-game coaching

mocsandvolsfan writes:

in response to underthehill:

No question Miller has the skills on offense to play more but I think it was his play on defense that held him back. On the other hand..Richardson does not shoot the ball well but he is the best defensive player on the team and Martin had to get him in to stop Ole Miss early..we have a tough matchup on defense when Golden and McBee are on the floor at the same time..that's why Ole Miss got off to the good start..Ole Miss isolated them and took them one on one for easy shots. It seems to me this team is playing as hard as they can (especially Maymon) to get the NIT bid and I sure hope they make it....

If it's true that he hasn't been giving his all on d then he needs to get his act together...like last night. I hope he works harder in practice now if he hasn't already been doing so. I think he's really gonna be good next year. He's an inside out type and we need that. At least I hope he is. But I agree with Martin that our players need to play D first as we saw last night with Ole Miss leading 15-2.
Richardson seems to have no confidence on offense. But I think he'll come around.

bahamapapavol writes:

Way to go Dwight.......we're so proud of you....hope your mom and family in Nassau subscribes to this site and read these comments. As a fellow Bahamian, living here in Knoxville, we are pulling for you to see the floor more! Keep up the good work!

mocsandvolsfan writes:

in response to johnlg00:

That's a fairly easy thing to say, and I'm not saying you are wrong, but the main things wrong with this team are on the perimeter more than on the posts. The all-too-common bad shooting and, less often, bad shot selection and poor passing have crippled the team more than anything the posts have or have not been doing.

Miller's outside shooting offers a dimension only Woolridge can supply among the big men, but the subtext of the article was that Miller may not have been working as hard in practice as Martin prefers. Like Woolridge, he might have defensive or concentration deficiencies. No question the Vols could use a lot more of the Miller we saw last night.

Rueful confession: I didn't see most of his heroics because for some reason I thought the game started at 8:00 PM, so I didn't log on to ESPN3 until then, just after the start of the second half.

As far as Woolridge goes I suspect he found that Martin's way was too much work.lol It's a lot easier to play offense and shoot 3s. When he worked hard inside he looked pretty good...getting rebounds and inside shots. I know you can't force players to do what you want but for the team I am very disappointed in him. He DOES sit and pull for his team though. Maybe tourney time he'll find motivation again. Heck make him a point guard. I don't care. "Magic" J. was 6'9". NOT that Woolridge is magic.

thevoice writes:

Quite honestly, I'd take Miller's play over Stokes' play any day, at least until Stokes matures and begins to show some hustle and free throw shooting ability. Take away Stokes' first game and he's an also ran. Sure like Miller's attitude.

IC_Vol writes:

in response to mocsandvolsfan:

As far as Woolridge goes I suspect he found that Martin's way was too much work.lol It's a lot easier to play offense and shoot 3s. When he worked hard inside he looked pretty good...getting rebounds and inside shots. I know you can't force players to do what you want but for the team I am very disappointed in him. He DOES sit and pull for his team though. Maybe tourney time he'll find motivation again. Heck make him a point guard. I don't care. "Magic" J. was 6'9". NOT that Woolridge is magic.

Really the issue we have is UT has 4 players in Yemi, Woolridge, Miller and Hall who offer different things but have no distiguishing strengths. With only about 20-30 minutes to split between them its hard to keep them all happy and productive. I think Hall might have separated himself but his suspension set him back. Now Martin has to figure out which one is going to be on and thats hard for the players and the coach.

GreeneVol writes:

McRae is the closest thing this team has to a 'Magic'. A combination of Magic and JP Prince. And Zo reminds me of CWeber...

Nice job, DMiller. Hope things continue to look up for you and ur bois...

Bigger_Al writes:

SOMNAMBULANT. 1. : walking or having the habit of walking while asleep. 2. : resembling or having the characteristics of a sleepwalker : sluggish

Nice one, Mike. Regarding Miller, I had to watch in a pub on a big screen that was not HD, and I wasn't sure who that was making 3's. I said, "That wasn't Miller, was it?"

CoverOrange writes:

Didn't get to watch the game. Who did Miller sub for?

CoverOrange writes:

in response to IC_Vol:

Really the issue we have is UT has 4 players in Yemi, Woolridge, Miller and Hall who offer different things but have no distiguishing strengths. With only about 20-30 minutes to split between them its hard to keep them all happy and productive. I think Hall might have separated himself but his suspension set him back. Now Martin has to figure out which one is going to be on and thats hard for the players and the coach.

Considering how well Woolridge and Miller hit the three perhaps they should be moved to the wing instead of playing post.

SevenT writes:

I suppose it will be only a matter of time before Tennessee starts cheating again to get players (like Pearl did).

mocsandvolsfan writes:

in response to IC_Vol:

Really the issue we have is UT has 4 players in Yemi, Woolridge, Miller and Hall who offer different things but have no distiguishing strengths. With only about 20-30 minutes to split between them its hard to keep them all happy and productive. I think Hall might have separated himself but his suspension set him back. Now Martin has to figure out which one is going to be on and thats hard for the players and the coach.

You're exactly right. However I think in Woolridge's case he just didn't want it enough. He has everything a player needs but desire it seems.
As far as Hall's concerned? He separated himself alright.lol

mocsandvolsfan writes:

in response to SevenT:

I suppose it will be only a matter of time before Tennessee starts cheating again to get players (like Pearl did).

Every so often a post soooo great and inspired comes to this board. Your's ain't it.

VolunteerLifer writes:

in response to BruisedOrange:

And his highlight reel... Miller 'lights?

Excellent.

Pompey writes:

in response to Pullingguard:

The question is....Why has Martin not been playing him more.. Sure could have used him verses Bama, could not have done worse than some who got extended minutes...

...I prefer to give Martin credit for creating an environment were many players can succeed...

Razzle writes:

in response to SevenT:

I suppose it will be only a matter of time before Tennessee starts cheating again to get players (like Pearl did).

I'm suggesting removal of your post because it makes no sense.

bvol1inSC writes:

I hate to be an opportunist here...first, major kudos to Miller, not only for his performance last night, but for showing CCM what he wanted/needed to see in practice for Miller to earn playing time. Second, the more and better "big men" with which you have to practice, the better they all get. There's no doubt that I see improvement in Maymon, Hall, Miller and Yemi since Stokes joined the team. Yes...Stokes is showing that he is human - he's only 18yrs old, is still not in great playing shape, has not developed the "college hustle," and has probably lost a little of his confidence or "cocksuredness" since his impressive first game against KY - because he's learning all that's expected of him on both ends of the court, his size, while still an awesome quality, is not the advantage it was in high school, etc. Just having someone with his star quality/potential can bring out the best in every player on the team...aside from having another, physical big man for practice. Now the opportunist: CCM shows the type of knowledge and understanding of his assistant coaches...and players....that I wish CDD could emulate. This is the "coaching gene"...the CCM seems to have in spades...and CDD lacks completely. I believe that Dooley can succeed BECAUSE the new staff/assistants all seem to have the coaching gene (from their past positions and performances), and if he will just empower them to do their thing, they can make him a winner. At any rate...I'm thankful we have Hart overseeing all...and you actually have to hand it to Hamilton, regardless of his other gaffes, for making a good hire in CCM. And you watch, CCM is a young man as well, and will continue to improve and grow. The future is very bright for U.T. basketball. I'll have fond memories of Pearl...BUT...he got overconfident, complacent and sloppy regarding the rules/details, and paid a dear price for that. So, CCM is here, has picked up the pieces and seems to be developing synergy within the team. I wish Hall hadn't shown the selfishness - or lack of judgment. If he can get back, I see us getting deep into the NIT or at least midway through NCAAs. One game at a time, and then turn it up a notch for SEC tourney.

volsfanntn11 writes:

in response to Razzle:

I'm suggesting removal of your post because it makes no sense.

I 2nd the removal of ur post.....if you cant say anything positive....then dont come to this site!....way to go DWIGHT!....VFL...GO BIG ORANGE!

murrayvol writes:

in response to SevenT:

I suppose it will be only a matter of time before Tennessee starts cheating again to get players (like Pearl did).

About as likely as your rising above minimum wage status.

Bubba_Knows writes:

Miller Time!

Bubba_Knows writes:

in response to mocsandvolsfan:

Every so often a post soooo great and inspired comes to this board. Your's ain't it.

That's right Mocs. If Bubba didn't write it, it ain't worth reading.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to thevoice:

Quite honestly, I'd take Miller's play over Stokes' play any day, at least until Stokes matures and begins to show some hustle and free throw shooting ability. Take away Stokes' first game and he's an also ran. Sure like Miller's attitude.

I agree with you about the free-throw shooting, but that is at least an occasional problem with most of the team except for Golden and McBee. I'm not sure, however, that I would say Stokes doesn't hustle. On defense, he doesn't always get to the proper help positions on time, but it took most of the season for the rest of the team to do that most of the time, so I think he will learn it as he plays more. On offense, he is very deliberate in his moves, somewhat like Harris last year though not as good at handling the ball as Harris was. He does need to learn to be a bit more decisive with the ball in the post and to be quicker passing out of double-teams. None of those things amount to a lack of hustle, IMHO, they are more indicative of a lack of experience against players as big and strong as one finds in the SEC as opposed to his HS opponents. One thing I have noticed is that once he gets his hands on a rebound, it is HIS. He seems to have very strong hands once he gets them on the ball.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to CoverOrange:

Considering how well Woolridge and Miller hit the three perhaps they should be moved to the wing instead of playing post.

It's not just about shooting from outside, it is also about guarding quick guys in the open court, which they may not be that good at yet. It works better for guys their size to defend the post and then go outside on offense to draw their own defenders away from Stokes and/or Maymon so they can work inside.

lemme_axya_this writes:

in response to SevenT:

I suppose it will be only a matter of time before Tennessee starts cheating again to get players (like Pearl did).

Some people, myself included, respond to moronic comments to try to humiliate the poster. You don't need the help.

orangecountyvols writes:

in response to Razzle:

I'm suggesting removal of your post because it makes no sense.

Razzle,

Relax friend. Eventually, a troll of this sort will be banned.

IC_Vol writes:

in response to johnlg00:

I agree with you about the free-throw shooting, but that is at least an occasional problem with most of the team except for Golden and McBee. I'm not sure, however, that I would say Stokes doesn't hustle. On defense, he doesn't always get to the proper help positions on time, but it took most of the season for the rest of the team to do that most of the time, so I think he will learn it as he plays more. On offense, he is very deliberate in his moves, somewhat like Harris last year though not as good at handling the ball as Harris was. He does need to learn to be a bit more decisive with the ball in the post and to be quicker passing out of double-teams. None of those things amount to a lack of hustle, IMHO, they are more indicative of a lack of experience against players as big and strong as one finds in the SEC as opposed to his HS opponents. One thing I have noticed is that once he gets his hands on a rebound, it is HIS. He seems to have very strong hands once he gets them on the ball.

Your quite accurate about Stokes. I was wondering how long before us fans started attacking the effort of yet another star player for not meeting our over inflated projections. In this case its been 6 weeks.

LJS1984 writes:

in response to richvol:

This is the age old story...kid works his rear off gets in the game and goes off. Miller showed what he's capable of. Let's see if he can do it consistantly.

Too bad that more American born kids don't have this same desire. 90% would have pouted and quit and felt sorry for themselves, Miller being from the Bahamas has probably had to fight for respect on the basketball court for most of his life. It's a credit to that young man's character.

Juzkruzin writes:

in response to thevoice:

Quite honestly, I'd take Miller's play over Stokes' play any day, at least until Stokes matures and begins to show some hustle and free throw shooting ability. Take away Stokes' first game and he's an also ran. Sure like Miller's attitude.

This is one voice that needs ti zipped it. It is something wrong with your eyes if you don't see Stokes hustling. You never seen his run the floor on a break out (you know what that is don't you) or the times he has dribbled he ball all the way on a fast break. What about last nite (did you blink) when he hit the floor trying to save a ball from going out of bounds, happened right in front of the camera. I would love to see Miller play like this every game, but that isn't going to happen. So till you got something worth reading, quick posting and for all of us change you name. You maybe thevoice, but you have not common sense when it comes to basketball or rate the players, you got your head up your ***.

volcraze writes:

in response to Bigger_Al:

SOMNAMBULANT. 1. : walking or having the habit of walking while asleep. 2. : resembling or having the characteristics of a sleepwalker : sluggish

Nice one, Mike. Regarding Miller, I had to watch in a pub on a big screen that was not HD, and I wasn't sure who that was making 3's. I said, "That wasn't Miller, was it?"

Thank you very much---you saved me the trouble of having to look up that word. I am definitely going to use it at work tomorrow to see what kind of reaction I get.

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