Andrew Tie, Brian Geisinger and Jim Young were at the ACC's Operation Basketball media day last week, talking to tons of players and coaches. During the course of the preseason, we'll be posting the Q&As they gathered.
First up is Florida State senior guard Ian Miller.
You mentioned that you want to be that guy with the ball in his hand in the last minute. Does that come with your new leadership role, and are you excited to take on that role?
I think just me being able to score the ball so well, and me knowing how to create and do those things, it’s just natural. I’ve been doing this since I was a freshman. Late my freshman year, (coach Hamilton) knew he had a guy who could make tough shots, could make challenged shots and could get it done. Sophomore year, I had a game-winner versus Virginia. Since then, my teammates – once the shot clock gets to 10 seconds, I’m coming up to get the ball, and we’re going to make it happen. I love that. It gives me a rush. Just to know my coaches have that confidence in me to make a shot and do whatever they need me to do with the ball, whether that’s create a shot for anybody else. Last year, I created a shot for Mike (Snaer) to win the game against Maryland, so it’s not just about me hitting a shot but creating opportunities for my team to win.
You mentioned coach Hamilton. It seems like he’s the kind of coach that you really want to please …
Coach K got all accolades, and Coach Williams – those are great guys and great coaches, but I think we have the best coach in the country,
hands down, just because of how much he cares about you. I don’t know if those other coaches, I’m not in their program, so I’m not saying they don’t do it, I’m not saying they do it. But I know what our coaches do.
Our coaches, they put it all on the line every day. They help us grow as men, not just as basketball players. I’ve seen (coach Hamilton) on the phone for hours and hours just making sure (former players) are in the right position, so they can be successful, so they can help their families out. If they want to keep pursuing a basketball career, he’s going to put them in the best situation. If they don’t, and they just want to get a job, he’s calling everyone he knows.
When you've got a guy like that, you just want to respect him and put it on the line every night because you know at the end of the day, he’s going to make sure you get what you deserve and maybe a little more. That’s what it’s about. College is the best four years of your life. He’s showing us how to mature and be men about it. When the opportunity comes knocking, seize the moment. That’s what we were working on this summer to just seize the moment. Last year, we started off strong. I had a stress reaction, stress fracture. We had a little downfall, but I’m glad we had this trip to Greece because all we had over there was each other. We knew if we didn’t play together and play hard, we were going to take a 40- or 50-point loss to the Greek national team.
How much do you talk about the new additions to the league?
We talk about it a little bit. It’s a big deal, but to us, it’s another opportunity. We want to keep on pushing, and we want to win. Whatever we've got to do to win, whether that’s beat everybody out, then that’s what we've got to do. We know it’s going to be a fight every night, but just to have these three teams in our conference is powerful. Now that the conference is so strong, if you come in the top three in our conference, I think you've got a pretty good shot at winning the NCAA. Being able to know that is a confidence booster, and it gives you a rush of excitement because you know you have a shot. Everybody wants that shot.
What did you learn and take away from your time in Greece?
Probably one of the best point guards playing the game right now – (Greek professional basketball player Vassilis) Spanoulis – and I took so much from him just because I’m playing like a Toney Douglas role. (Spanoulis) is so fascinating with his game and his deception and how crafty he is and how much of a leader he is. He doesn’t say a lot, and I don’t like to say a lot. I like to get it done. I’m a scorer, and he just showed me how to pick and choose times to score and to pick and choose when to get your other teammates flowing in the game. Doing that will take us a long way. I think that was the missing piece last year.
Are you focused on getting the defense strong again to limit scoring?
Last year we were so young, and I didn’t think the young guys understood how hard it was or how easy it could be if we learned the principles. This whole summer, we were working on offense but also the (defensive) principles, just getting those principles back in that dog mentality, that it’s not going to be easy.
People don’t want to play us. Just to know that is helpful. Those young guys understand that if we place that fear back in people, we’ll be right where we want to be. We’re getting that mentality back, and I can see it every day in practice. We’re going to keep working. Our preseason isn’t over yet. We want to get back to one of those NCAA tournament runs and the championship in the ACC.
16-15 is …
You might as well have said we had a losing season. That’s a losing season to me. It’s not a successful season. It hurt me, but it drove me so much this summer to push and dominate each day. I told my coach I didn’t want to be back in that situation. I never wanted to be back having to worry about whether we’re going to the NCAA.
How do you like being back in your hometown of Charlotte?
Oh yeah, I love my hometown. Every day that I work out, that I practice, that I play, it’s for me, but I’m representing this city. A lot of people know me as the face of basketball from here. Not many people that played at the highest level of college basketball are from Charlotte, and I take pride in that. It gives me a little rush because you’re that guy that people look up to. Being from Charlotte is great. It’s like the center of ACC basketball.
Without Michael Snaer, do you want to take his role of game-winning shot maker and leader?
We've got so many guys to where whoever coach draws up a play for, it’s going to work. We’ve matured so much, and we’ve worked so hard on team play to where I don’t think it matters who takes the last shot. But indeed, I do want to take the last shot. I put that pressure on myself this summer. I put that pressure on myself in practice to make tough shots.
I know coach is going to call my name to get us through because I think I am that creator for my teammates and, if need be, for myself. I like that pressure. I’ve been doing it since high school. I wasn’t able to give that to them last year. Mike had to take up that role. This year, we don’t want it to have to come down to any last-second shots. Maybe end of the shot clock, but we don’t want to come down to buzzer-beater wins. We want to win, and we want to look good winning. If need be, I’ll take that shot, but other than that, it doesn’t really matter.
What did you work on this summer?
Ball handling. Finding my spots on the floor. I’ve been out since October without being able to practice with a foot injury. When I was in games last year, it was sort of like a free run. I was just doing what I could. Being able to work out again was so exciting. I was in the gym at 5:30 every morning working on getting to my shots, ball handling, shots – if I’m not making eight out of 10 at each spot, I’m starting over. That’s just how hard I push myself and how clutch I want to be. I don’t want to miss. When I miss, there’s something wrong. I don’t want to be that guy that’s streaky. I want to be the guy that’s if you leave me open or if you challenge me, I’m going to make it.
That’s what I was working on this summer with coach (Stan) Jones. I was meeting with him every day, talking to him when he was in town. He helped me so much. I surpassed where they wanted me to be. I wasn’t expected to come back til late July, early August. I was back in June going 100 miles an hour, just excited to be back and doing what I love to do.
This summer was a blessing. We went to Greece, and my first bucket was an and-one. The thing that was going through my head was, “I’m back.” I think my teammates noticed that, and I think my coaches noticed that. My teammates respect the fact that this is me and Okaro’s final run, and we want to make this year as special as we can be. We’re going to shock the whole country. I don’t think a lot of people respect Florida State right now. We had a down season, so I don’t think they have that fear, but I know they fear our defense. We’re going to get back to what we do. I’m still learning this leadership thing, trying to be vocal 24/7.
How do you feel about your post depth?
To be honest, the closest comparison I can make with our big men is Bernard James, Xavier Gibson and Jon Kreft – how we rotated those guys. We’ve got the bruiser – that’s (Michael) Ojo, obviously. He’s seven feet, 300 pounds. He’s getting it all, putting it all together. He’s right where the coaches and the team want him to be. We got Boris (Bojanovsky) – he’s our finesse guy. He knocks down open shots, and he’s a great passer. He knows how to move in the offense and get his in the flow of the offense. We’ve got Okaro – that’s an automatic mismatch. You got a 6-9 guy with a 43-inch vertical, can run like a deer. We’ve got Robert Gilchrist, who can do the same thing. Then we got Kiel Turpin; the sleepy assassin, that’s what I call him because people aren’t going to expect him to do what he’s going to do this year. He’s going to do wonders because he’s worked for it and deserves it.
It starts with the guards, though. We put in that work this summer. I made sure everybody was in the gym working out. I really didn’t have to check up on anyone. After I finished my workout at 5:30, there was another guard coming in at 7. Then there was another guard coming in at 9. There was another guard coming in at 10, so when you see that, it builds confidence in me that, “Okay I can depend on these guys.” After the guards, we’ve got big men coming in. Another big man coming in after that. When you see that, you know everybody’s bought in. We’re the underdogs this season, but since I’ve been at Florida State, we’ve always been disrespected, been the underdog, so we got to make statements every night.