Miller Adding Leadership to His Resume

BELMAR, N.J. -- Rutgers its three senior leaders from last year's squad, so junior wing Dane Miller is trying to fill the void. Miller spoke to about it, and his comfort level in being a team leader, as well as his offseason.

BELMAR, N.J. – Rutgers junior wing Dane Miller wasn't playing for Ned Stevens Gutter Cleaners in the first game of the Jersey Shore Basketball League, but he sat at the end of the bench watching nine of his teammates play.

He didn't play in the second game, or third, or fourth, or on and on, but if he didn't have a prior commitment involving basketball, family life or school, he made the two-hour round trip to St. Rose High gym to watch the Scarlet Knights play in the summer league.

"I feel like I need to do it a lot because this is a young team," Miller said. "There are six freshmen (and transfer Wally Judge), and for us to be as good as we want to be, we need a leader on the team. I feel like I can bring that."

The loss of Jonathan Mitchell, Mike Coburn and James Beatty didn't just pull 32 points per game from the roster, but just about all the leadership the Scarlet Knights possessed.

Miller brings plenty of athleticism, and play making ability, to the Scarlet Knights, but he is noticing his needs for improvement in key areas.

"I think this is probably the most focused summer I've had since I came in," said Miller, who averaged 9.2 points and 6.1 rebounds as a sophomore. "I'm focused in the weight room, I'm getting extra lifts in, extra conditioning, working on my jump shot, working on every part of my game."

But the most important part of Miller's development is off-the-court.

When the Gutter Cleaners lost three straight games to open the JSBL season, Miller and junior Austin Johnson got the team together and staged a walk-through to, of all things, discuss defensive philosophy.

The freshmen -- Myles Mack, Jerome Seagears, Elijah Carter, Derrick Randall, Greg Lewis and Malick Kone – and Judge listened intently. The Rutgers-led entry responded with five wins in their last six games heading into Thursday's final regular season game of the schedule.

"I feel like I always had (leadership)," Miller said. "I had it in AAU, I had it in high school, but I feel like I didn't really do a great job of it last year because we had seniors. I talked to my high school coach and he told me to be myself."

Miller, who began playing in the JSBL last week for Investment Bankers, said the leadership feels normal.

"It's not forced," he said. "My AAU coach always told me, ‘You don't choose leadership. Leadership chooses you.' I always had the trait to be a leader, but I didn't really use it (the first two years) because I didn't feel I had to."

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