ATHLETE OF THE WEEK: Forward Comes Up Big Against Taller Team

MILLER THRILLER
Alexandra C. Dowd

With a frontcourt decimated by injuries, Harvard looked to junior Doug Miller, who held his ground against a tough Santa Clara team that emphasizes inside play. Miller scored 15 points, recorded three rebounds, and shot 70 percent from the field to lead t

As the Harvard men’s basketball team got ready to face Santa Clara last Friday, it appeared to be in a bit of trouble up front.Hamstrung by multiple injuries and facing a Broncos team with huge 6’11, 275-pound John Bryant and two other players taller than the tallest member of the Crimson, it would have been understandable if Harvard ended up on the short end of things.

But luckily for the Crimson, it was Miller time.

Junior forward Doug Miller stepped up to lead a depleted frontcourt in the best performance in his three years wearing the Harvard uniform. In 26 minutes, the 6’7, 220-pounder scored a career-high 15 points—his first double-digit output in college—on a very efficient 7-of-10 shooting from the field. On the defensive end, he spent much of his time on the floor bodying up big Bryant, limiting his touches and scoring opportunities. The opposing big man scored 14 points, below his 19 points per game average, and the Crimson opened 2009 with a 73-68 victory.

“Doug had a presence that we sorely needed,” Harvard coach Tommy Amaker said. “You can see the confidence growing in his play. Tonight it was an excellent effort by him. His teammates were so happy for him in the locker room afterwards. He’s a wonderful guy and a great teammate.”

Miller’s performance came on a night when the Crimson had three forwards out injured and a fourth limited. Freshman Andrew Van Nest is out for the season with a shoulder injury and junior Pat Magnarelli has not played this season due to a knee injury—though he may begin a comeback attempt soon. Senior Evan Harris missed his third straight game, while freshman Keith Wright was not near 100 percent physically in his second game back from illness.

So it was up to Miller to carry the flag for the big men inside, and he delivered. With Bryant seemingly holding down the Santa Clara interior, Miller beat him twice in the first half with reverse layups off passes from his classmate, guard Jeremy Lin.

The junior combination continued to shine in the second half, when Miller scored nine of his points. Twice, Lin—who leads the Ivy League in assists and had nine on the day—found his big man down low for buckets to keep the Crimson in control.

“He’s great at finding me,” Miller said. “I just hoped that I could finish and be strong.”

Miller returned the favor, stealing an alley-oop pass attempt to start a fast-break that ended with a three-point play for Lin. Miller’s other basket in the half came as he followed his own miss shot for the put back.

His stellar performance at Santa Clara is a continuation of the great progress Miller has made this season. His freshman season he played in just one game and blew out his knee midway though the campaign. Last year, he averaged only six minutes a game in 23 games and scored just 22 total points all season.

This year, he is one of only two Harvard players along with Lin to start all 13 games and is averaging 4.7 points and 3.2 rebounds per contest.

“He’s a lot better from when he came in freshman year to where he is now,” senior guard Drew Housman said. “He’s probably the hardest worker on the team. It’s great to see him have success, especially against a formidable opponent.”

“He doesn’t take any days off,” Lin added. “He’s definitely taken advantage of the opportunities presented to him this year.”

Miller won’t be taking any days off soon as he and his teammates face Boston College today. The Eagles are coming off an upset win at North Carolina, the then-No. 1 team in the country. But as he battles BC’s frontcourt aces Corey Raji, Joe Trapani, Josh Southern, and Tyler Roche, he can take solace knowing none of them is either 6’11 or 275 lbs.

—Staff writer Ted Kirby can be reached at tjkirby@fas.harvard.edu.

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