COLUMBIA — The ball clanged off the rim as time expired and the crowd went wild. It was 2010. The shot was Trey Miller’s and the iron being unkind meant NHS lost the AA State Championship game.
But the senior guard and sharpshooter did not go the way of Wilbur “Shooter” Flatch in the 1986 movie Hooisers whose life spiraled downward after it was forever defined by a missed shot.
Miller said one reason he was able to put the shot behind him and focus on the future was that basketball does not define him.
He is a son, older brother and an avid artist who loves to draw pencil sketches when he’s not pounding the hardwood.
Miller said he has done sketches of/for team mates but that art is a way he branches out beyond basketball. He also likes playing video games ranging from Call of Duty to sports games.
An honor student who aspires to be either an engineer or a physical therapist, Miller missed a game this season so he could attend the state Beta Club convention.
Head Coach Chad Cary says Miller is an exceptional basketball player but is a far better student and person than he is an athlete.
“As a leader sometimes I’ll talk with the guys about their studies and help team mates if they are in a class with me and don’t understand an assignment,” Miller said.
Though he has other hobbies, his main bond is with his boys on the NHS varsity basketball team. Cary said Miller’s leadership and approach as a student of the game rub off on his team mates.
“They just know how to play the game and have a lot of heart and attitude. (But Trey also has led by example). Trey has been a lethal player for us the last ten games not only with outside shooting but by scoring at the rim and drawing fouls,” Cary said.
Keeping it in the family
Miller comes by his athleticism honestly. Miller’s father, Albert Jr., played baseball on a state championship team at NHS and also played two guard for the Bulldogs just as Trey does.
“Dad gives me tips sometimes today. We are really close. Dad said just to give it (my) all and play hard. It’s (our) last game, so I’ll just lace my shoes up and be ready to go,” Miller said.
He also helped as an assistant coach on an AAU team for fifth/sixth graders that his father coaches.
Trey volunteers at the YMCA with the after school program and did some volunteering at Boundary Street School prior to the season starting.
“Dad and I go out to eat together and ride bikes sometimes,” he said. And Trey plays pickup basketball games with his younger sister, Meya, an eighth-grader who was on the final four team at NHS.
“I can’t let her win though, or I’d never hear the end of it,” he said.
That bond made the upper state championship games tough for Trey because he wanted to see his sister’s team advance, too, but minutes after the final buzzer sounded he had to compose himself and help out his extended family — the boys team — on their quest for a championship.
Miller and his teammates have played together a long time, not only at NMS but for AAU teams and in high school. That chemistry and knowledge of the game is one reason Cary gives for the team’s success. The other is the players’ work ethic and how they have bought into his system.
Hard work = success
A four-year player on varsity, Miller recalled the first year Cary instituted the up tempo offense with five person substitutions that resembling a hockey team’s line changes.
“That first year we had a lot of losses including a round one playoff loss versus Keenan,” he said, “but over time as players learned the system and bought into it, we started winning and becoming more confident.”
Not all the drills are fun and games, though.
Miller said Cary’s defensive slide drills are the one thing in practice that he likes least but he understands the importance of the team being in sync for the press defense and up tempo style NHS runs.
In the weightroom and the gym, Miller and his teammates worked hard, played together in AAU ball and at the YMCA and made it back to the state championship, not once, but two more years.
Miller said many of them took a weightlifting elective class prior to the season, a class taught by Cary. That class gave them another opportunity to bond.
The strongest player on the team, he said, is senior point guard Bennett Wilson and either Wilson or Devin Harmon is the fastest.
As for who would win a game of HORSE between himself and Notorious Booker, Miller didn’t say but he did say the two challenge one another and that competitiveness helps make the team even better.
Hungry for a ring
Miller said he and the team’s nine seniors want to go out with rings, not just for themselves, but for their hometown.
The first trip Miller made to Colonial Life Arena as a player, the Dogs overcame a 15-point deficit to come within an eyelash of winning the state title. The game last year with Lake Marion was a one-point game with a minute to go.
The Dogs might be a bit undersized in this one but Miller likes their chances any time they set foot on a court, provided his boys are there with him.
And this year, if a potential game winning shot looms, Miller says he’ll knock it down.