Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
PISCATAWAY, N.J. —Dane Miller committed to Rutgers nearly two years ago during his junior season at Rochester (N.Y.) Rush Henrietta High School, long before a single other program could offer him a scholarship.
“Nobody really offered him because he committed so early,” said Mickey Walker, who coached Miller with the Upstate Basketball Club. “At the time he committed, he hadn’t projected [academically] yet.”
Now a freshman, the 6-foot-7, 210-pound Miller enters Wednesday’s game against Syracuse (15-1, 2-1 Big East) as one of the bright lights on a struggling team at Rutgers (9-6, 0-3).
Miller is coming off a 26-point, 7-rebound performance in Saturday’s loss at Providence and is averaging 7.4 points and 5.6 rebounds on the season.
“You never know with freshmen, how quickly they assimilate to what you’re doing, assimilate to their teammates,” Rutgers coach Fred Hill said. “And he certainly had unbelievable moments and he had some freshman moments, but he grows every day and that’s what we look for. And certainly his last performance was his best of the season. He’s had some real good ones.
“He’s a very, very talented young man and we’re extremely pleased with what he’s done so far.”
Miller grew up in Harlem but moved to upstate New York when he was 14.
He played AAU ball alongside Syracuse freshman point guard Brandon Triche, who, along with Scoop Jardine, is part of a two-headed point guard monster for the Orange.
“I was the point guard, [Triche] was the shooting guard, so I knew him since the seventh grade,” Miller said of their AAU experience.
Miller said Tuesday he planned to call Triche on the eve of the game.
Miller grew up about an hour and 15 minutes from Syracuse and said the Orange gave him a look during his sophomore year, but never got very serious.
“I don’t know if maybe they figured, well, I’m an hour away so they won’t really have to contact me so much,” Miller said. “No one knows, besides my AAU coach, what really happened.”
While Triche and the Orange are thriving, the Scarlet Knights have yet to win a Big East game and recently lost their second best player, sophomore forward Gregory Echenique, when he announced plans to transfer.
Yet Miller says he doesn’t envy Triche or the Orange.
“No, because one of the reasons I came here was to help turn this around and to get some wins,” Miller said of Rutgers. “Right now we’re in a slump but we got 15 more games left.”
Miller said the team mood was “upbeat” despite the loss of Echenique and the losing streak.
“Greg, obviously is a big loss. He was a big part of this team. I mean, we’ve just got to come out and play,” he said.
Walker said he’s been to one Rutgers game and watched half a dozen more on TV. He’s been very impressed with Miller’s development so far.
“I think he’s progressing tremendously,” Walker said. “Watching the game against Providence, he’s doing everything that we knew he could do. He’s getting an opportunity to play. He’s getting an opportunity to play against a high level of competition. He’s running the floor, playing hard. He’s shooting the ball a little more than he did in high school. He’s handling the ball. He’s been able to make plays. It’s been great for him.”
He added: “People look at him and they expect him to be a 4 or a 4/3, but he handles the ball like he’s a guard. He has the mentality of getting people involved like he’s a guard.”
Walker compared Miller’s situation with Triche’s and said Miller was getting a little more flexibility because of the teams’ different situations.
“Brandon’s on a really good team,” Walker said. “I don’t know that he’s getting the opportunity that Dane’s getting a chance to.”
Between them, Triche (2), Cincinnati’s Lance Stephenson (2) and Villanova’s Maalik Wayns (2) have won six of the eight Big East Rookie of the Week honors this year.
Miller said he’s not worried about those types of awards because he’s more focused on team success.
“People always ask if me if one of my goals is trying to compete for Big East Rookie of the Year, or any first-team rookie [honors]. Not really,” he said. “My main thing is just to come out and win.”
(Photos courtesy Rutgers and Syracuse Athletics)Follow Adam Zagoria on Twitter.
Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.