Derrick Webb, Staff Writer
BEAVER — When Michael Miller touches the basketball, good things tend to happen.
Eastern’s 6-foot-6 senior forward has the tendency to carry the Eagles’ scoring load while making even the best defenders look pedestrian. And on the glass, he’s just as dangerous.
Through nine games this season, Miller has habitually turned in double-doubles as his Eagles sit at 8-1 overall with a 5-0 mark in the SOC I … and that success is far from finished.
“Our expectations are to just keep getting better as the season progresses and win games,” Miller said. “For the rest of the season, I just want to play to my full potential and do whatever I have to do to win.”
That statement is the epitome of Miller’s personality as a teammate. He’d much rather see his team earn a win than to claim any individual accomplishment.
Eastern’s most notable wins — so far — have come over New Boston, Waverly and Western.
The Eagles outlasted New Boston in a triple overtime thriller, topped Waverly in the first round of the Pike County Holiday Classic, and beat Western in the Classic’s championship game by a 57-53 final.
Miller scored 41 points in those three victories and admitted the Classic is one of his favorite parts of Eastern’s schedule.
“I always love playing in the Holiday Classic. It’s my favorite time other than tourney time,” he said. “I’ve had a great experience playing in the Classic every year with exciting and competitive games. Everyone in the community is there supporting their schools and it’s a special time for basketball in my opinion. It feels even better to come out on top in back-to-back years.”
In Miller’s time at Eastern, the Eagles have won the County Holiday Classic twice, claimed three sectional championships and have made two district final appearances.
But there’s one number that’s always in Miller’s mind when he’s on the floor, no matter the venue or event: 21.
Miller’s cousin Tristan Miller, a former basketball player at Zane Trace High School, passed away on Nov. 12, 2017. Michael and Tristan, as well as Tristan’s brother Trey, have been close since little league baseball days.
Tristan’s varsity basketball number was 21.
“Tristan, Trey and I have been super close ever since my dad brought me up to [Chillicothe’s] SVYL to play little league baseball with my cousins,” Miller said. “I think about 21 on the court all the time. I know that if he were here, he’d be killing it on the court this year with ZT. Tristan will always be remembered and cherished in my heart for as long as I live.”
With Tristan watching from above, Michael’s next move will be attending Trevecca Nazarene University, where he’s signed to further his basketball career.
“I’ve always loved Nashville and Tennessee. My sister moved there right out of high school and I knew Nashville would definitely be somewhere that I would want to be,” he said. “My family and I prayed for a place that I could go after high school that would feel like home and be the best place for me.”
Upon his first arrival on campus, he knew where he belonged. His prayers were answered.
“I started sending some colleges in the Nashville area some stats and video of me this past offseason and we got in touch with the head coach at TNU,” Miller explained. “We went down on a visit and it felt like home. I’m super blessed I get the opportunity to play at the next level after this season.”
But first … this season.
The Eagles have unfinished business to attend to after last year’s 50-42 loss to Oak Hill in a Division III district final game.
Miller believes this team has the ability to get over the hump.
“Senior year has definitely been an exciting one so far and I’m looking forward to what it has in store for me. I try not to think about high school basketball coming to an end but, that being said, I’m looking forward and appreciating every single game,” he said. “I think we have the potential to win our conference again this year and to play in the regional finals.”
High goals but if you don’t reach for the stars, you’ll never have the chance to grab one.
If Eastern is to advance into a regional final, according to the OHSAA, the program would have a chance to advance to its first ever state semifinal.
With Miller and his senior teammates scheduled to graduate, they might as well piece something special together that finds its own place in school history. That’s certainly the plan.
“When I graduate, I hope our team leaves a strong foundation with a winning tradition,” Miller said. “Hopefully, we can make a great tournament run this year that will be talked about for a long time.”