Florida State senior guard Ian Miller is no stranger to adversity. Throughout his first three seasons at FSU, Miller has battled injuries and academic eligibility issues. Like any college student thrust into the rigors of a top-tier Division 1 men’s basketball program, Miller had to adjust.
Miller was a standout star at United Faith Christian Academy High School, where he led his team to two N.C. 1A basketball championships and was named The Charlotte Observer Player of the Year twice. The talent was there. Maybe he had trouble adjusting? Maybe he wasn’t cut out to be a D1 basketball player? Nonsense.
Now in his senior season, Miller looks like a changed person. The Seminoles have fallen on tough times, going 2-3 in their last five games, including a two-point loss in overtime to then No. 14 Michigan and a one-point loss to then No. 15 Florida. However, Miller says that once FSU fixes the little things, everything will fall into place. Miller is leading the Seminoles in scoring with 14.6 PPG and has led his team to a 6-3 record, including an 18-point ousting of No. 10 VCU.
I had the opportunity to chat with Miller about his season and career at Florida State, his golden shoes, and his relationship with NBA legend Muggsy Bogues. One thing was clear when talking with Ian. He’s taken the adversity during his time at Florida State and used it to take his game to the next level. He closely watches top NBA point guards and emulates players like Russell Westbrook, Damian Lillard and Steph Curry. Miller has met with NBA legends like Michael Jordan and LeBron James, but credits someone else as his inspiration.
That inspiration is a young man named Casey Roffler (attends UF Christian Academy HS), who suffers from Treacher Collins Syndrome, a genetic disorder which doesn’t allow the jaw, ears and nasal passages to grow as the face does. The jaw can recede, block airways and impede breathing. Casey has had over 15 surgeries in 12 years, but continues to fight and remains in high spirits. Miller has called Casey Roffler his hero and told me that when he looks at Casey’s situation that he has no reason to complain. “If he can get through all the pain that he’s been through then why should I complain?” says Miller.
Ian Miller has dreamed of making it to the NBA since he was four years old and he aims to be a first-round pick in the 2014 NBA Draft. He will do whatever it takes to put his team in the right position to win. Remember the name.
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Dime: FSU has gone 2-3 after opening the season 4-0, with very close losses to ranked opponents in Michigan and Florida. How can the Seminoles turn it around?
Ian Miller: We’re a young team, so we have to learn how to finish and close out games. It’s just the little things we have to fix rather than the big problems. We just have to fix the little things so we can be where we wanna be at the end of the year.
Dime: So, you had 22 points, seven boards and four assists in an 18-point victory over No. 10 VCU. Can you explain your mindset when going up against a ranked opponent?
IM: It’s the same mindset every game, it’s just a little bit easier to get energized for. My mindset was that I knew if I didn’t play good then we wouldn’t have a chance to win. It’s just the pressure that I put on myself every game and that’s the mindset that I have every game. If I don’t practice good then we aren’t going to win and if I don’t play good then we aren’t going to win. As long as I have that mindset then I dominate whatever I’m trying to dominate.
Dime: You’re shooting 48 percent from the field and leading the Seminoles in scoring at 14.6 PPG. What factors can you contribute to this?
IM: I could have did it last year, but the big thing is being healthy. Finally being healthy and having a normal preseason is one of the biggest things. Really, this summer I went on a diet and started eating the right foods. I picked up a lot of bad weight last year when I was injured, so it was trimming my body back down to my high school playing weight. I knew I was going to be fine basketball wise, my skill wasn’t going to fall off. I just had to get my rhythm back. I was lifting more and running more and putting myself in the best position to where I could play 30 to 38 minutes a game each night.
Dime: You talked a little bit about your injury issues and you’ve had academic eligibility issues in the past. How have you been able to overcome those adversities?
IM: You don’t get through anything without a little bit of pain. It was just maturity with my academic issues when I first got to college. It was something that I watched on TV and then I got here and reality hit me and I saw how it really was. I just had to grow up a little bit and come to grips with myself and know that I can’t have basketball if my grades aren’t right. Then when I got the injury last year, it really helped me to grow up, because I saw that basketball could get taken away from me at any minute. It was very important, I never had an injury where I had to sit out games or that lasted the whole season, so I didn’t really understand the process and I was a little bit depressed. It really helped me get mentally strong and made me be able to push through anything now.
Dime: What is your relationship like with former NBA star Muggsy Bogues?
IM: That’s like an uncle or nephew or father and son type relationship. I can always count on him to tell me the honest truth. Like some people come up to you after every game and say “Oh yeah, you did great” when you know deep down inside that you didn’t do good. He’s gonna tell you if you did a good job or didn’t, what you need to work on to get better and things like that. When you have someone like that that is always on you and helping you to be at the top of your game and he’s already been to the level that you’re trying to get too, it’s really good. He’s someone that you want in your corner at all times. Our relationship is a lot different than a lot of guys, we have a real, real good relationship where can we talk about anything.
Dime: You recently wore a pair of gold shoes in a game when and scored 16 points in them. Do the shoes on your feet impact your performance in any way?
IM: Oh nah. I’m just a sneakerhead and I love shoes. I’ve always had a variety of shoes, but I had to wear specific shoes this year that shaped my feet and felt real soft with the padding in the inside because of the injury I had last year to protect it. But, the shoes don’t impact my performance.
Dime: Are there any NBA players you look up to or model your game around?
IM: I look at guys like Russell Westbrook, how he gets out at transition. I look at how Damian Lillard uses ball screens to get his shot off. Of course, I look at Steph Curry and watch how he creates his own shot, how he shoots the ball and what he’s doing in the offseason. I take in all those things and try to tailor myself around all those guys. Those guys are very significant point guards in the NBA and it will be important that I can do some of those things if I wanna get to where I wanna go. Why not try to hone them now and get them down pat? So, if I’m blessed enough to make it to the next level, I won’t struggle with it.
Dime: You’re big in working with the community. Can you explain the relationship you have with Casey Roffler and the impact he has had on your life?
IM: Oh Casey, that’s my man. He’s been through a lot at such a young age. He is just a soldier, man, and I’ve never been around him and seen him down, no matter if he has surgery the next day or whatever it may be. He always has an uplifting spirit and he shows you to keep pushing and be determined. He lets you know to not let anything affect you, because if he can get through all the pain that he’s been through then why should I complain, you know?
Dime: Is the NBA your dream?
IM: It’s been my dream since I was four years old.
Dime: How does it feel to be this close to your dream?
IM: It feels great, but I think the reality will really set in that I can be in the NBA when I recover from my injury and get back the feeling to be confident like I was before and being better than I was before. It’s close, but I have good guys like Coach Hamilton and Muggsy around me. I know when the time comes around me, when the times comes that I have to what I have to do, that I will have good guys I can rely on.
Dime: You’ve played with and against guys like John Wall, Kyrie Irving and Brandon Knight. How have those guys affected the way you go out and work?
IM: I have never been the type to pay attention to that. I have the mindset where you go through everything for a reason. When I saw those guys get drafted, I was happy for them, but I was like I can be there if I just put in the work.
Dime: Final question for you. Is there anything you want to tell NBA GMs of the world about Ian Miller?
IM: I’m a momma’s boy… nah I don’t wanna tell them that [chuckles]. I just want to say that I’m a good guy that’s going to try to do everything to put my team in the best position to win. That’s pretty much it. I just wanna make sure we win and everything else will take care of itself.
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