Darius Miller is a special player

Billy Donovan said, "(Miller)'s got incredible leadership qualities but I just think there's a lot of intangibles that come with him."

It had to be difficult for Ramon Harris and Perry Stevenson to be recruited by Tubby Smith and play for him one year, spend the next two years playing for Billy Gillispie and then having John Calipari come to Kentucky for their final season and bring the nation's No. 1 recruiting class with him.

But think about everything that Darius Miller has been through.

The Kentucky senior was a prep standout at Mason County who decided to play for Gillispie despite his shaky first season at Kentucky and then has had to watch Calipari bring in three straight No. 1 recruiting classes. He's also has had to listen annually no matter what he does, that he's not consistent enough and often doesn't get the most out of his ability.

Yet earlier this season he became only the 58th UK?player to go over the 1,000-point scoring mark and currently has 1,104 points. He also had 451 rebounds and still has a chance to become just the 33rd player in program history to score 1,000 or more points and grab 500 or more rebounds. He's averaging 9.7 points, 2.8 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game while shooting 47.7 percent from the field, 37.6 percent from 3-point range and 73.9 percent at the foul line.

Miller has a fan in Florida coach Billy Donovan. After Kentucky beat his Gators, Donovan noted how Kentucky had six NBA first-round draft picks — and one would be Miller.

"I love him. I've always loved him," Donovan said. "I've got a tremendous amount of respect for him because I think just what he's been through. I think he started off with (former coach) Billy Gillispie there as a young player and then John came in and then he's playing with (John) Wall and (Eric) Bledsoe and (DeMarcus) Cousins and those guys, and then they basically lose a lot of guys to the NBA, and then last year comes in a new crop of guys.

"I just think he's a Steady Eddie. I think he's an incredible core, glue guy that probably in a lot of ways is overshadowed by maybe Gilchrist or (Anthony) Davis or (Marquis) Teague. But he is a really, I think, a guy that presents a lot of problems because one, he's highly intelligent. He plays a lot of different positions. He's a mismatch when you play him at the three. He's a mismatch at the four. He can even play the two. He's battle-tested, he's been through it. He's got incredible leadership qualities but I just think there's a lot of intangibles that come with him. It seems like he embraces new faces that come in there. I always see him doing what he has to do to help the team win. You cannot have enough guys like that."

Team guys are indeed crucial to Calipari's success and Miller has always been a team-first player. But Donovan says not to mistake Miller's willingness to pass, play defense and blend in with talented teammates as a sign that he's not a special talent, too.

"He's also a very talented guy and adds a different element to their team. His versatility and he's the older guy who has been on good teams. I assume he understands team chemistry and how to work. He's not an I-guy. He never seems to have a bad attitude. I love their (Kentucky's) disposition and respect that and I think Darius has that kind of disposition as well," Donovan said.

Kentucky coach John Calipari says Donovan might be biased in his opinion of Miller by the way the UK?senior has played so well against the Gators the last two seasons.

"He plays his best (against Florida). I don't know why he does," Calipari said.

Kentucky's win at Vanderbilt could demonstrate Miller's worth as well as anything.?He got in early foul trouble, picked up a fourth foul early in the second half and looked like a non-contributor. However, despite having four fouls, he hit a 3-pointer, got two assists, played solid defense and turned a desperation pass from Marquis Teague into a basket in traffic late in Kentucky's win.

"Darius made unbelievable strides," Calipari said. "He played poorly in the first half. Just did not play well. The second half he played okay and got another foul. I put him in with four fouls and told him to just play and then the last five minutes he basically won the game. In a way, he is as important as anybody we have on this team."

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