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Miller takes long road before starring for Crusaders

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Posted: Saturday, December 24, 2011 5:30 am

Marlon Miller just wasn't good enough.

He admits it. So does his college coach, who says he didn't see Miller blossoming into the basketball player he's become.

"Absolutely not," Mary Hardin-Baylor coach Ken DeWeese said. "If I would have, I would have gotten him then. But no." Miller, though, has developed into one of the top offensive weapons in all of Division III basketball. He scored a career-high 36 points last week against Mississippi College and followed two days later with 34 against Louisiana College. His average – 21.8 points per game – is 21st in the country.

But getting to 70 points in less than 72 hours didn't come easy.

Miller wasn't a scorer in high school.

"I had no jumper at all – I couldn't shoot," said the former Belton point guard. "I could just handle the ball."

With his limitations, Miller wasn't the star. The Tigers had their go-to players.

That included Miller's older brother Melvin, an all-district forward who helped lead Belton to its last playoff appearance in 2004.

"He just stayed out of everybody's way and gave the ball to the right people," DeWeese said. "I can't think of any other way to put it except that he was a good role player that accepted his position."

"(Melvin) was the high school star," said Marlon, though he added his brother didn't play in college. "Plus, I was more focused on track than basketball at the time."

But even those dreams came to a screeching halt. Miller competed in the high jump, long jump and sprints, but before the district meet his senior year, he pulled a quadriceps muscle and couldn't participate.

After graduation, Miller gave up on college athletics and went to work at a distribution center.

It didn't stop curb his curiosity nor the questions about why he wasn't playing.

Miller was continually outplaying others at pickup games and church tournaments. Those around took notice.

"They were kind of asking me why didn't I ever pursue it or why didn't I get a scholarship," Miller said. "But at the time, it just wasn't my focus."

That changed when Miller, who was taking classes at Temple College, took the basketball class to count toward his physical education credit.

The teacher was Leopards coach Kirby Johnson, who eventually invited Miller to walk on to the men's basketball team.

That was all the motivation Miller needed.

"I just told myself that if I was going to do this, then I need to be serious, work on my game and get better," Miller said.

In his first season at Temple College (2008-09), Miller averaged 7.3 points in 28 games. The next season, he was the leader of the team, averaging 19.8 points to earn All-Northern Texas Junior College Athletic Conference first-team honors.

Miller also caught the Crusaders' attention and DeWeese offered him a spot. As a junior at UMHB, Miller averaged 14.2 points per game – leading the team.

But, he never stopped working. Miller said he's even more focused in practice on not just maintaining and improving his offense, but the rest of his game.

"It's more mental than just being able to play," Miller said. "You have to take smarter shots, make smarter passes. It's more mental."

Now, years removed from his time as a role player, Miller is one of the leaders for an unbeaten UMHB team that's ranked 11th in the nation.

He's older, but has also relished the second chance that he had to work so hard to get.

"Even when things were tough, he kept going back at it," DeWeese said. "I'm one of the worst people in the world when I hear someone say, 'If you dream it, it will happen.' And I say, 'Oh, nah.'

"But I think Marlon is a pretty good example that if you do dream it, you do keep working at it and you do believe in it, it has a chance to develop nice."

Contact Angel Verdejo at averdejo@kdhnews.com or (254) 501-7564. Follow him on Twitter at KDHSports.

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