The strong, silent type

Terps: Danny Miller doesn't make much noise offensively, but the forward's strength is playing solid defense in a supporting role.

March 10, 2000|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- As his fellow Maryland basketball starters carried Atlantic Coast Conference honors to the league tournament yesterday, Danny Miller packed his usual humility. Again.

The only McDonald's high school All-American on the Terrapins' roster, Miller has become the team's silent partner, sacrificing his offensive game and accepting roles few seem to recognize. So although he has yet to crack the headlines, where would Maryland be without this sophomore forward/defensive specialist/peacemaker?

That's why fans should remember to judge Miller on what he prevents, rather than what he creates.

"You get more credit when you score," said Miller, a native of Mount Holly, N.J., who is averaging 9.1 points. "But it's always good to look at the stat sheet and see your man didn't have a good game. And the reason for that is because you forced that."

Some of Miller's best defensive games have come against the ACC's top players. He has limited Duke's Chris Carrawell, Virginia's Chris Williams and Florida State's Ron Hale -- all of whom made the All-ACC's first three teams -- to a combined 44 percent shooting (38 of 86).

At 6 feet 8, Miller has enough quickness to keep up with those players and uses his height advantage to throw off their shots.

In his previous matchup with Carrawell, Miller outscored the Duke star, 16-14. Still, Miller was shut out in the All-ACC voting, as Juan Dixon and Lonny Baxter made the first team, Terence Morris finished as the sixth-leading vote-getter, and Steve Blake placed on the all-freshman squad.

"It's pretty much the way it is when you're a really good defensive player and there's other guys scoring more points than you," Terps coach Gary Williams said. "You never get attention those other people get.

"Juan, Terence and Lonny are scoring. Steve comes in as a freshman starting in the ACC and playing well. And oh yeah, by the way, Danny Miller played good defense last night. But that's OK with Danny."

Miller, who averaged 20.5 points as a senior at Rancocas Valley High, seems content in his supporting role as long as Maryland keeps winning.

He makes the entry pass from the wing rather than spotting up for a three-pointer. He sets screens rather than cutting to the basket without the ball.

And though he is the worst rebounder among the starters, Miller had the biggest box-out of the night in an 89-87 loss Saturday at Virginia. Of course, it didn't make the box score since it occurred near the Terps' huddle.

After Dixon turned the ball over in the final seconds of regulation and Maryland failed to get off a last shot, Dixon and Williams barked at each other on the sideline. When no one else intervened, Miller stepped in the middle and moved Dixon away.

"That time, I saw things getting a little crazy," Miller said. "They were under control, but I wanted to make sure nothing happened because we had to play the rest of the game. I just wanted to make sure we kept our heads in the game."

Miller had similar battles on the court in his backyard, growing up with his older brothers, Michael and Greg. When he was 5, Miller would come into the house crying when he got knocked down. However, the rules changed 10 years later.

From his freshman to sophomore year in high school, Miller went from a 6-foot point guard to a 6-5 post player. Then Greg, now a senior at Delaware, would not play one-on-one unless Dan agreed to take three dribbles or less before shooting.

Mick Miller, their father, remembers how their high school coach, Ron Powell, differentiated between Dan and Greg.

"Ronnie said when Greg drives to the basket and knocks you down, he'll help you back up," their father said. "When Dan knocks you down, he'll stand over you with a stare and maybe even spit on you."

That's the tough streak Miller showed a month ago at Duke. Chasing a loose ball at midcourt, he delivered a forearm to Carra- well's face.

Then there are the times when Miller reverts to his days as a 6-foot guard, a possible explanation for why he is averaging only 2.8 rebounds. The positive side is that Miller handles the ball better than most players his size and has a dependable outside shot. He has knocked down a team-best 38 percent of his three-pointers.

Miller would rank third in the ACC in three-point percentage as well, except his 86 attempts fall short of the minimum required. But the Terps' silent partner won't argue for the attention -- for now.

"Maryland's been a nice fit for Dan," Miller's father said. "He's quiet, but yet he'll have his say when it needs to be said."

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